Town Talk Diner sues Minneapolis, claiming it allowed destruction after Floyd's death

This lawsuit is the first one against Mayor Frey and the City of Minneapolis for property damage related to the civil unrest last summer.
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Town Talk Diner and Gastropub in Minneapolis was reduced to ruble during the riots following George Floyd's killing.

Town Talk Diner and Gastropub in Minneapolis was reduced to ruble during the riots following George Floyd's killing.

The owners of a Minneapolis diner are suing the City of Minneapolis and Mayor Jacob Frey, alleging they allowed rioters to destroy their business during the civil unrest following George Floyd's killing in May. 

Kacy White and Charles Stotts, who own Town Talk Diner and Gastropub on Lake Street in South Minneapolis – a block from the Minneapolis Police Department's Third Precinct – filed the federal lawsuit Monday, seeking $4.5 million in damages from the city, according to the lawsuit posted online by the Minnesota Reformer

This is the first lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis related to property damage that occurred during last summer's civil unrest, which damaged more than 400 businesses in the Twin Cities to a tune of more than $500 million.

The lawsuit alleges Frey and the City of Minneapolis' "failed to react to the seriousness of the riots" and did not follow policy in place to stop the riots, allowing violence and destruction to escalate.

"Mayor Frey and the City's failure to control the significant (yet manageable) number of malefactors on Lake Street resulted in his failure to protect Town Talk," the suit says.

Their "failure to quell several nights of rioting, fires, and ransacking of local businesses resulted in Town Talk being engulfed in flames and burned to the ground," the suit claims. 

The lawsuit alleges the mayor and the City infringed on their constitutional rights, causing them to suffer "irreparable harm," loss of business revenue, reduction in property value, destruction of property and "other economic and non-economic injuries."

Timeline

Town Talk Diner's historic building destroyed in a fire in the early hours of May 29, 2020.

Town Talk Diner's historic building destroyed in a fire in the early hours of May 29, 2020.

Protests in Minneapolis began on May 25, 2020, the day Floyd was killed, and by the next day, protesters had surrounded the MPD's Third Precinct at Minnehaha Avenue and East Lake Street, which became the epicenter for protests and rioting in the days to come. 

The lawsuit alleges when protests began, city leaders "failed to distinguish between demonstrators and rioters," claiming Frey "ultimately failed to provide the guidance Minnesotans expect" from officials. And from May 25-28, 2020, Frey and the City "continuously deviated" from policies in place to control crowds, which led to Town Talk Diner being destroyed. 

The lawsuit details the timeline of protests, noting destruction in the area around the Third Precinct and the diner began May 26 and became more dangerous on May 27, alleging Frey and the City were "fully aware of the serious safety issues they created" and they "stood back and watched as their failure to follow the policies in place destroyed the businesses on Lake Street." 

The morning of May 28, White and Stotts went to Town Talk Diner to find it had been significantly damaged, the suit states. So they boarded up the historic building hoping to prevent further looting and destruction.

That night (May 28), the suit alleges Frey failed to follow policy and deviated from the typical chain of command, eventually ordering officials to abandon the Third Precinct and "leaving the citizens of Lake Street to defend themselves and their property."

"Rather than seeking to restore order and protect the residents and property owners within the Third Precinct, the City and Mayor Frey instead chose to surrender the area to rioters who set fire to the community," the lawsuit says.

By 10:30 p.m. on May 28, the Third Precinct station was overrun with rioters and a few hours later, more than a dozen buildings nearby were set on fire with emergency responders nowhere in sight, the lawsuit states. 

Town Talk Diner was one of them, being set ablaze at around 3:30 a.m. on May 29 and by morning it was just a pile of rubble, the suit claims.

During the riots and the days following, Frey and Gov. Tim Walz were criticized and slammed each other for the response to the riots, with Walz calling the city's response an "abject failure." 

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $4.5 million, as well as costs associated with investigations and attorney's fees.

Lawsuits like this can be hard to win, Mitchell Hamline Law Professor Mehmet Konar-Steenberg told the Minnesota Reformer, saying “Lawsuits like this are difficult to prevail on. At least as a constitutional matter, it’s very difficult to bring a claim against the government that says ‘I don’t think the government did its job very well.’”

Minneapolis City Attorney Jim Rowader told the Star Tribune the city "stands ready to vigorously defend this lawsuit," saying the lawsuit ignores key facts and Frey took "quick and decisive action."

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