Sunday night quiet after raucous Saturday night in Duluth

After 11 arrests and tear gas Saturday night, Sunday night appeared much quieter in Duluth.

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Authorities in gas masks form a barricade in front of Kwik Trip in Lincoln Park Sunday morning. (Tyler Schank /

Duluth city officials said they were hoping for the best Sunday night, but prepared for another night of trouble after civil unrest in the city’s Lincoln Park neighborhood late Saturday.

With more than 100 law enforcement officers available, however, it appears Sunday night was much quieter in the city than the night before. There were no reports of major damage or injuries Sunday night into early Monday, with the city under a curfew until 6 a.m. Monday.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson posted on social media this morning that she would decide later Monday whether to impose another citywide curfew again Monday night.

Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said 11 people were arrested overnight Saturday into Sunday, seven adults and four juveniles, all but one of whom had Duluth addresses.


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St. Louis County sheriff's deputies tell protesters to stand back as Duluth police officers arrest a young person Saturday evening at the intersection of Basswood Avenue and Central Entrance. (Tyler Schank /

The arrests centered on an incident near the Kwik Trip store at 27th Avenue West and Superior Street, where 20 members of the police department’s tactical response unit used tear gas to disperse an unruly crowd early Sunday morning. The protest-related arrests included unlawful assembly, felony third-degree riot, misdemeanor disorderly conduct and damage to property, in addition to warrant arrests.

Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken talks at Sunday morning’s news conference as Mayor Emily Larson listens. (Steve Kuchera / free

After four days of protests, arson and anarchy in Minneapolis, St. Paul and other cities nationally after the death of George Floyd — an African American man who died after being knelt on by a white Minneapolis police officer — Saturday night’s actions were the first major incidents in Duluth.

The Lincoln Park unrest followed a series of events that started with a peaceful downtown protest march Saturday afternoon. While most of the crowd dispersed after the event, several protesters moved on to Interstate 35 in their vehicles where they stopped traffic before moving on to other areas and ending up in Lincoln Park early Sunday. Tusken said the same, apparently organized, group of protesters repeatedly used their vehicles to move to new parts of the city and stay ahead of any police buildup.

City officials said the tactical unit was called in after reports of shots fired in the area and because protesters refused repeated requests to disperse. The 911 call was one of 18 made during the incident, Tusken said. Officers also witnessed an assault on a store employee in the parking lot and Tusken said some officers were also assaulted.

“We had objects thrown at us,’’ Tusken said. “It had become a compelling public safety threat.”

While the tactical unit did not have full riot gear, officials said they were wearing masks and helmets to protect themselves from items being thrown and from COVID-19.


“They were getting spit on,’’ Duluth Mayor Emily Larson noted.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson brings up a point to Chief of Police Mike Tusken during Sunday’s news conference. (Steve Kuchera /

By Sunday morning, the Kwik Trip store was open for business as usual, with no apparent damage.

Duluth Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj also confirmed there was a suspected arson fire of a vehicle at the Perrin's Auto dealership on Central Entrance shortly after the Lincoln Park events.

There were no reports of major injuries from any of the incidents. Police said there were eight reports of damaged property due to the incidents but Tusken said other people with damaged property should still call police and report it. Among the issues dealt with were confirmed reports of rocks thrown at squad cars, broken windows, vandalism and arson.

A vehicle burns in the parking lot of a used car dealership on Central Entrance early Sunday morning. Duluth Fire Department officials said it appeared to be arson. It wasn't immediately clear if the fire was related to earlier protests. Jamey Malcomb / News Tribune


Tusken said 101 officers were on duty Saturday night, and that even more would be on duty Sunday night, thanks to help from the Superior Police Department and St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office. A normal Duluth Police Department shift would see only 18-20 officers on the job, Tusken noted. Tusken, a 28-year veteran of the department, said he can't remember the last time the department had to deploy tear gas to diffuse an unruly crowd.

Tusken said he was hopeful for a peaceful Sunday night but that his department would be prepared for worst. Larson said she was in contact with the governor’s office.

Larson and Tusken, flanked by Duluth city councilors and other city staff, held a late-morning news conference on the steps of City Hall where they implored residents to obey a strict curfew — no one should leave their homes except for work or medical reasons — imposed from 9 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday.

Larson said the curfew, also used Saturday night under the mayor’s emergency powers, allows law enforcement to distinguish between people choosing to be safe and those "choosing chaos.”

In preparation for curfew Sunday night, Tusken said on Facebook that the department had "declared an emergency for staffing purposes," making the full complement of 157 officers available, in addition to support from the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office and Superior Police Department.

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Duluth police officers arrest a young person during protests Saturday evening at the intersection of Basswood Avenue and Central Entrance. (Tyler Schank /

Tusken and Larson went out of their way to recognize the legitimate anger and sentiments of protesters after Floyd’s death. They said they appreciated the peaceful nature of the Saturday afternoon’s march and rally joined by more than 1,000 people downtown.


“What we saw was absolutely devastating for us to watch,’’ Tusken said of the video showing Floyd being kneeled on by the Minneapolis officer while Floyd begged for his life. “That is not what policing represents.”

Larson said the city was differentiating between the peaceful march and later violent actions.

“Last night we had a series of actions based on hundreds of years of frustration and anger,’’ Larson noted, praising the peaceful marchers who were “loud and fierce in their words and their passions,’’ Larson said. “I share in your anger over injustice.”

Tusken said law enforcement officers worked to keep both patience and space between themselves and peaceful protesters, “allowing people the opportunity to have voice,’’ but said the city wouldn’t allow violence.

Larson said she understood fear in the community as protesters were seeking to “disassemble the norms’’ of society in their anger in what has been a collective effort to share the black community’s pain.

Larson said city officials had heard rumors of “caravans’’ of out-of-town protesters coming to Duluth, “but that is not what we saw last night.”

Flowers and a picture of George Floyd sit at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Sunday morning. (Steve Kuchera /


Larson held her strongest spite for whoever vandalized the Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial on First Street Saturday by spray painting "F--- 12", an anti-police phrase. She said city crews were working Sunday using solvents to remove the paint from the memorial for three black men lynched 100 years ago on the site, a monument that she called a “painful treasure’’ for the city and nation.

Duluth City Councilor Renee Van Nett, who represents and lives near the area of most tumult Saturday night, said she “fully respects people’s right to express themselves 150,000%. That’s perfectly fine.”

But she said she was heartbroken with the violence and vandalism displayed Saturday night and the fact the city needs a curfew.

“I’m very disappointed and heartbroken and exhausted for our community members and living the trauma myself. I’m having to talk with my two little brown children about this situation,’’ she said. “As a City Council member and vice president of the council, I’m absolutely open to discussion if we have to talk about curfew. I’m good with that. But I’m kind of heart-broken, aggravated and tired. … This is our home. Don’t come here and act like that.”

Duluth Parks supervisor Dale Sellner sweeps water and chemical cleaner from the bricks at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Sunday morning. On Saturday a protester spray painted an obscene anti-police slogan on the bricks. (Steve Kuchera /

City Council President Gary Anderson said the events that have unfolded since the Floyd death have left him “sort of speechless.”

“I went to bed last night with a budding awareness that the National Guard had been called up in 14 states. And knowing that Minnesota was one of those and that we were facing our own situation here in Duluth. It’s shocking and disturbing in some ways,’’ he said. “I was very grateful to see the community come out in large numbers for the peaceful protest yesterday. I was glad to see other city councilors there with myself yesterday as part of that.”


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Duluth police officers arrest a young person during protests Saturday evening at the intersection of Basswood Avenue and Central Entrance. (Tyler Schank /

Confrontation in Lincoln Park

Near the Kwik Trip Saturday night, protesters screamed at Duluth police officers and St. Louis County sheriff’s deputies in the middle of Superior Street. A couple of fights broke out among protesters, with two women protesters pepper-sprayed by another protester. Another fight broke out among men; people were punching one of them on the ground. Law enforcement then rolled in and made several arrests. One young man was pepper-sprayed by law enforcement as he was being arrested. On the other side of Superior Street, protesters and onlookers yelled at police.

Following a brief lull where Duluth police officers and St. Louis County sheriff’s deputies left the area, protesters continued milling about.

About 10 minutes later, at least one fight broke out in the Kwik Trip parking lot, bringing authorities back into the area in force to calm the situation.

Police began leaving the area a second time about 11:45 p.m. Saturday evening. As they drove west down Superior Street, protesters began throwing rocks at squad cars and riot vehicles.

Police arrested two men, one of whom screamed “No justice, no peace,” as he was placed in a vehicle.

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Authorities advance on protesters across Superior Street deploying tear gas around 1 a.m. Sunday. (Tyler Schank /

A standoff followed with authorities forming a barricade in the Kwik Trip parking lot and protesters retreating to Superior Street and parking lots opposite the gas station. Members of the crowd went back and forth in the Kwik Trip parking lot, speaking at the silent wall of police officers.

During the standoff, a couple of protesters threw two smoke bombs toward the diesel pump area where the line of police formed. Protesters closer in the areas with police reacted quickly and doused the smoke bombs with water.

About 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning, police announced by loudspeaker they had deemed the assembly unlawful and were prepared to use tear gas to disperse the crowd. Twice more the crowd was warned to leave the area or face tear gas.

“You’ve made your point — go home,” an officer announced from behind the line of law enforcement officers.

Just after 1 a.m., five or more canisters of tear gas were released into Superior Street and the line of officers moved into the street toward the bulk of the crowd. As the cloud of gas dissipated, the scene calmed and most protesters left the area.

Police made a few more arrests and by about 1:15 a.m. the area was again calm and quiet.

Staff writers Jamey Malcomb, Jimmy Lovrien and Teri Cadeau contributed to this story.

This story was updated at 8:51 a.m. June 1 to include updates about a possible curfew Monday; at 5:30 p.m. May 31 to update details related to Sunday's curfew; and at 2:23 p.m. May 31 with additional information about arrests and property damage. It was originally posted at 1:18 a.m. May 31.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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