Reading: Jesse Walker (2020-06-01) @ Reason.com
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter claimed Saturday morning that “every single person” arrested in his city the night before had been from out of state. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz reiterated the idea that the troublemakers were outsiders: His “best estimate,” he said, was that “about 80 percent” of the rioters were from elsewhere. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey warned that “white supremacists, members of organized crime, out of state instigators, and possibly even foreign actors” were trying “to destroy and destabilize our city and our region.” President Donald Trump didn’t agree with Frey’s list of culprits—”It’s ANTIFA and the Radical Left,” he proclaimed—but he grabbed hold of the governor’s number, tweeting as a settled fact that “80% of the RIOTERS in Minneapolis last night were from OUT OF STATE.”
By the end of the day, those figures had fallen apart.
Activists do travel to protests in other parts of the country, of course. Leninist grouplets drove down to Ferguson; Oath Keepers headed out to the Bundy ranch. And yes, people with their own agendas sometimes try to escalate violence—though they don’t necessarily come from out of town to do it. Visitors are often peaceful, and hotheads can be homegrown. Sometimes they almost have to be homegrown: Given how many places are boiling over right now, it’s hard to believe that they’re all in thrall to outsiders sweeping in from someplace else.
Hard to believe, but convenient to believe. Such beliefs are so convenient, in fact, that they’ve cropped up many times before. There’s a long history of dubious rumors about outside agitators—some of them “possibly even foreign,” as Mayor Frey might say.
— Jesse Walker, The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of theOutside AgitatorStory
Reason.com, 1 June 2020.