For weeks, activists and Internet commentators rushed to a viral video of a character nicknamed “Umbrella Man” who speculated that his intention was indeed to destroy peaceful protests.
On Tuesday, police in Minneapolis confirmed the suspicions and identified him as an associate member of a white supremacist group that allegedly sought to “incite violence,” according to an affidavit of a search filed in Hennepin County District Court. The Star Tribune reported the order for the first time. The 32-year-old man was not charged.
The Minneapolis Police Department did not comment on the case and reported an active investigation.
The report comes amid growing concerns from right-wing agitators who deliberately provoke violence in protests. Last month, federal prosecutors accused supporters of the right-wing “Boogaloo Boys”; movement of incidents, including the killing of a security officer in a federal courthouse and the depiction of firearms and explosives in a government building and peaceful protests – all to provoke racial conflict.
Theories that may have involved white supremacist groups in the “Umbrella Man” case emerged shortly after his vandalized video began spreading on social media. Many falsely identified the man as a police officer of St. Paul, which caused the ministry to release surveillance footage showing the officer during the protest.
Many of the suspicions surrounding “Umbrelly’s man” stem from his secret rise – all black, including the gas mask that covered most of his face – and his reaction to protesters confronting his vandalism. As he made his way along the building, he broke the glass at once, and was struck by an African-American in a pink T-shirt and white shorts, seemingly insisting that he stop. But “Umbrella Man” moved forward until more spectators approached. Eventually, he turned and walked past the building, but many in the crowd followed him, one even shouting and asking if he was a cop.
Shortly after he smashed AutoZone’s windows and fled, people began looting the store and eventually set it on fire.
Erika I. Christensen, a Minneapolis police investigator who wrote the affidavit, now claims that his “sole purpose” was to provoke disagreement.
“Until the action of what your friend called Umbrella Man, the protests were relatively peaceful,” she said. “This person’s actions have created an atmosphere of hostility and tension.”
The destruction spread quickly. The next morning, Minneapolis fire departments said they had responded to about 30 fires. One man was shot and killed in a backup, while another man was found dead and burned in another.
“It was the first fire to start a fire and plunder the area and the rest of the city,” Christensen said.
It took months for Minneapolis police to identify the man. Christensen wrote in a statement that she had spent “countless hours” scrolling through social media applications such as TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube.
The break finally came last week when a tip came up with the name “Umbrella Man” and revealed that he was a member of the Gang Hells Angels motorcycle, composed mainly of white men who ride Harley-Davidson bikes. Christensen soon discovered that “Umbrella Man” was also a “well-known collaborator” of the Aryan Cowboys, a white supremacist prison gang based mainly in Minnesota and Kentucky.
Christensen also found that just before the windows broke into AutoZone, “Umbrella Man,” allegedly sprayed in white, “free with — for each zone,” on the red door of the store.
He was also involved in an incident in Stillwater, Minn., Where a group of motorcycle gang members wearing Aryan Cowboys’ leather vests blamed a Muslim woman.
In response to the reports, some civil rights leaders are urging the Ministry of Justice to further investigate. Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, tweeted: “Great time to ask AG Barr to investigate violent white supremacist groups by the ministry.”