The Minneapolis police chief says anarchists from outside the community are attacking police, using an early Sunday police shooting of an unarmed black man as an excuse to conduct violence.
Meanwhile, protesters Thursday demanded federal action, accusing police of abuse, and seek a federal investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Police Chief Janeé Harteau told reporters that Molotov cocktails were thrown at officers and several shots were fired east of the 4th Precinct station, center of protests since the early Sunday police shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark, who died Monday.
While many in North Minneapolis are not happy with police, Harteau blamed outsiders for the most violent actions.
“We believe we are dealing with anarchists…” Harteau said about Wednesday night-Thursday morning activity. “We believe people from outside our community are coming in to promote violence.”
Harteau said chemical irritants were sprayed at officers, resulting with one needing medical treatment.
While “most people were peaceful,” the chief said “hundreds of rocks,” “dozens of full bricks,” bottles and large chunks of material were thrown at police.
Thousands of dollars’ worth of damage was done to cars and other police property around the 4th Precinct, she added.
While Harteau was blaming anarchists for problems, protest organizers said police were abusing them.
Black Lives Matter Minneapolis alleged several cases of police abuse, including using mace on a young woman and a WCCO-TV reporter, pointing weapons at several “peaceful protesters” including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s son and making “false claims” that protesters sprayed chemicals irritants at them.
Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said that the Minneapolis Police Department cannot fix itself.
“We are also asking for the Minneapolis Police Department to be placed under federal receivership…” she said. “What happened to Jamar Clark was just the tip of the iceberg.”
The public backlash continued Thursday night, with hundreds gathering outside the 4th Precinct to decry the city’s handling of Clark’s death.
The promise of a federal investigation was not what Kathy Jones was looking for. As the crowd formed a circle in the middle of Plymouth Avenue, the 51-year resident of North Minneapolis spoke into a bullhorn.
“I don’t need an investigation,” she said. “I don’t need Minneapolis police to tell me what happened. I don’t need the FBI to tell me what happened. I don’t need the BCA to tell me what happened. The community knows what happened.”
Protesters used wooden pallets to shut down Plymouth Avenue in front of the police station and set up fire rings to brace against the wind and temperature dropping near freezing.
The assembly was peaceful, with several taking selfies and posting to various social media sites using the hashtags “#4thPrecinctShutDown,” “#ReleaseTheTapes” and “#Justice4Jamar.”
Police say Clark, 24, interfered with ambulance personnel trying to treat a person in North Minneapolis early Sunday.
A statement from the one officer involved in the shooting, Dustin Schwarze, and police union president Bob Kroll said Clark was not handcuffed, a main point of disagreement with North Minneapolis witnesses.
“When police arrived, Mr. Clark refused to show his hands or otherwise comply with police orders,” the statement said.
During the incident, the statement added, “he chose to engage officers in a life-or-death struggle for an officer’s weapon.”
The statement said Clark “had manual control” of the gun.
Many of the North Minneapolis witnesses say Clark was handcuffed and shot “execution style.”
The Kroll-Schwarze statement said Clark has spent time in prison for aggravated robbery and earlier this year pleaded guilty to terroristic threats.
Clark’s family said he was setting his life straight and had two jobs.
The major tension point is the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s refusal to release of video from several sources of the shooting incident. BCA officials said that release of the video, which does not show the entire Sunday incident, would “taint” future interviews in the case.
NAACP national President Cornell William Brooks was en route to Minneapolis to lead a late-Friday afternoon rally at the 4th Precinct.
“Our goal is to come to a resolution,” NAACP spokeswoman Raquel Coombs said.
Similar situations in which officers killed a young black man, such as in Ferguson, Mo., have resulted in violent and sometimes deadly clashes between police and protesters.
“We don’t want it to get to that,” Coombs said.
Black Lives Matter Minneapolis called for a civil rights investigation into “abuses of peaceful protesters.”
An activist supporting the Black Lives Matter-backed protests tweeted a photo of one of Ellison’s sons with his hands in the air in front of a police line. It was not immediately clear which of Ellison’s sons is pictured.
“My son is PEACEFULLY protesting w/hands up; officer is shouldering gun. Why?” the congressman tweeted.
St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter David Montgomery and Forum News Service reporter Robb Jeffries contributed to this story. Forum News Service and the Pioneer Press are media partners.
Emotions high in Minneapolis
Emotions are overflowing in Minneapolis after police shot an unarmed black man early Sunday.
Take a Thursday tweet by Ashley Fairbanks, one of dozens of protesters living in tents outside the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct station: “Your first thought when you wake up in the morning should never be ‘I’m glad the police didn’t kill any of my friends last night.'”
The Minneapolis mayor said she understands feelings of many protesters, who want information in the shooting of Jamar Clark.
“I share many of the emotions that people are feeling in Minneapolis…” Betsey Hodges said. “I firmly believe in everyone’s right to protest and understand that people want to have places where they can gather and do that peacefully.”
Fairbanks was one of about a dozen Black Lives Matter Minneapolis members and other protesters who met with Hodges Thursday as tensions continued to run high after Jamar Clark’s death from a single shot from a police officer’s gun.