Minneapolis, MN (TFC) – Going on day five of protesting, hundreds of people remain camped out at the city’s 4th Precinct in Minneapolis. The protesters led by the group Black Lives Matter are there in response to the police shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark. They are there demanding the release of the video tapes that were recovered from multiple sources at the scene of Clark’s death. BCA Superintendent Drew Evans stated at a news conference on Tuesday that none of the videos captured the entire incident and none will be released while the investigation is ongoing.
Over the past few days protesters have occupied the grounds around the police station, as well as doing a mass shut down of I94 on Monday evening. The 2-hour shutdown resulted in the arrest of 43 adults and eight juveniles. Police said those who were arrested would be charged with “pedestrian on freeway” and “unlawful assembly.” Both offenses are misdemeanors. Those who were arrested during the shutdown were cooperative during the arrest and no force was needed during the arrests. Wednesday brought about a different tone. Back at the 4th Precinct, the police were dressed in riot gear. Pastor Brian Herron of Zion Baptist Church in Minneapolis criticized the police for coming out in riot gear. “We don’t want another Ferguson,” said the former city council member, referring to the St. Louis suburb where a white police officer’s shooting last year of an unarmed black man and the decision by a grand jury not to indict the officer led to riots. “They are unleashing something they don’t understand. Oh Lord.”
Police said they had to move protesters who were blocking the entrance of the building. At this point, the officers claim people got very angry and started throwing stuff at them right away. But, Shvonne Johnson, a St. Catherine University instructor, who was there with college students, said officers didn’t give them a chance to leave. “They were charging us,” she said. “People were trying to get past, to do what they asked us to do, but they came at us with force.”
Chief Janee Harteau says most of the 400 protesters were peaceful, but some were violent – throwing hundreds of rocks, bottles and bricks. When objects began to be thrown, the police were said to have sprayed a chemical irritant into the crowd through the fence. Some protesters returned fire with chemical irritants of their own. The back and forth of the spraying occurred three times throughout the evening. The protesters tried to combat the spray of the officers by putting up tarps along the chain link fence. These eventually were ripped down by the police. Along with the chemical irritant, Officers also fired compressed chalk rounds to mark suspects who threw objects so police would be able to identify them later. The police claim to have done this one time, however a video posted by the independent news outlet Unicorn Riot appears to show police firing multiple marking rounds. In total, so far, it appears there have been 51 arrests. According to Chief Janee Harteau about $25,000 of damage occurred to 12 squad cars and two portable cameras sustained about $13,000 of damage. The 4th Precinct building also sustained broken windows, damage to a fence, and a retaining wall was totaled.
The response to the past few days of protest vary as they usually do in these cases. The police department itself is seemingly taking the approach to giving the protesters some allowance to grieve, let their voices be heard, and presence be felt. Thursday a very vocal Bob Kroll, head of the Minneapolis police union, took a more stern tone. Kroll said the department should be moving more forcefully, including removal of tents that some protesters have set up outside the north side’s 4th Precinct. “It’s chaos,” Kroll said. “The officers are worn down”. He added of the protesters: “They should not have been allowed to pitch one tent, set one fire, or block the entryway for one minute.” U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, whose son Jeremiah was shown in a Star Tribune photo with an officer in the background pointing a gun at the crowd of protesters tweeted this response “Photo is agonizing for me to see. My son is PEACEFULLY protesting w/ hands up; officer is shouldering gun. Why?”
There is a candlelight vigil and march planned for Friday evening at 4:30 by the NAACP at the police station. From the event pages and the various groups getting involved including civil rights leaders, clergy, and Black Lives Matter, I see the numbers and intensity growing for Minneapolis. Regardless if it is wanted, it does look like there may very well have another Ferguson on their hands.