Tension rises as Minneapolis police move shooting protesters
MINNEAPOLIS - Tensions rose Wednesday as investigations continue into the police shooting of an unarmed 24-year-old black man. Protesters threw rocks and other objects at police as officers moved some out of the Minneapolis Police Department 4th ...
MINNEAPOLIS - Tensions rose Wednesday as investigations continue into the police shooting of an unarmed 24-year-old black man.
Protesters threw rocks and other objects at police as officers moved some out of the Minneapolis Police Department 4th Precinct vestibule and others away from the building in what the police chief said was an effort to open up a path to give other citizens access to the precinct.
There apparently were no serious injuries and police reported one person was cited for throwing something at officers and released.
Black Lives Matter Minneapolis and other protesters have camped out at the precinct since soon after Jamar Clark was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer early Sunday.
Police set up metal barriers in front of the precinct as hundreds of protesters linked arms and surrounded the police facility.
Meanwhile, a police union official Wednesday said Clark was going for an officer's gun, and not wearing handcuffs, when he was shot.
State officials released the names of officers involved in the shooting after investigators interviewed them Tuesday night.
Tensions that earlier in the week included protesters shutting down Interstate 94 escalated at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday when scuffles broke out as Minneapolis police moved protesters away from a police station.
Protesters said police rushed into the vestibule and roughly evicted them.
The police story was different. They said they were prepared to quietly ask them to leave, but the four "young ladies" there got up and ran outside. Police officials said officers packed up their belongings in five large grocery bags and carried them to the women's cars.
A couple dozen protesters were at the precinct Wednesday afternoon, with several tents and campfires in rainy weather. As soon as police began to move in, social media calls went out for more activists to head to the precinct, and the crowd grew rapidly.
With the crowd swelling, police doused the campfires by dumping water from garbage cans on them and tried to move protesters away from the front door.
Objects were thrown at police soon after they began moving protesters, who said they were treated roughly.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau said that free speech is important, but officers needed to move the protesters for public safety and to provide access to the precinct.
"We just wanted to clear the vestibule," Harteau said, adding that "we want to allow people to have their frustrations heard."
Police told of several incidents since the Sunday shooting, including objects being thrown at officers and several police cars sustaining serious damage. Also, shots were fired near the precinct, but police said they do not know who fired them.
Officers also said marijuana was being smoked in the vestibule.
Harteau said she would do what she could to allow free speech, but that will have limits.
"If things escalate, then our response has to escalate," Harteau said.
Police had offered protesters the use of a large parking lot across the street from the precinct instead of camping out next to the front door.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said that she appreciates people's patience in the situation because the investigation into the shooting "is going to take a while."
"I completely support people's right to assembly ... to protest peacefully," the mayor said.
Just before the early Sunday shooting, police were called to the North Minneapolis neighborhood when ambulance personnel reported a disturbance as they treated a patient.
Some witnesses to the shooting said Clark was handcuffed and said the incident appeared like an execution.
While state and federal investigators look into the handcuff question, police say he was not cuffed. Police union officials, in fact, claim Clark was trying to take one of the officers' guns.
State officials Wednesday identified officers involved in the shooting as Mark Ringgenberg, 30, and Dustin Schwarze, 28. Each has worked 13 months for Minneapolis and has been a police officer seven years.
Both were placed on routine paid administrative leave after the shooting.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office reported Clark died of a single gunshot wound to the head.
Officials did not indicate which officer fired his gun.
Schwarz was an officer in Minneapolis suburbs of Richfield and Brooklyn Park before taking the Minneapolis job. Ringgenberg worked for Maple Grove and San Diego, Calif., police departments.
Minneapolis officials did not immediately release information about whether either officer had been disciplined, but police union head Lt. Bob Kroll told reporters that they have "no discipline on their records."
Superintendent Drew Evans of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said videos of the shooting do not show the entire incident and will not be released. North Minneapolis activists say they will continue their 4th Precinct campout until the public can view the videos, which come from a variety of sources.
Hours before Wednesday's precinct tension, Clark's sister said her brother was a peaceful man and should not have been shot.
"He did not deserve to be shot down like an animal," Javille Burns told reporters.
However, she said, she is not angry with police officers and will pray for them.
"Love conquers all," she said.
At the same news conference, Lena Gardner, a Black Lives Matter organizer, said activists will continue to speak out.
"We want them to stop killing us," Gardner said.
The BCA says its investigation could take up to four months. Hodges and Gov. Mark Dayton requested a federal civil rights investigation, too, which is beginning.
The deaths of unarmed black people at the hands of police over the past several years have fueled protests nationwide and rekindled a national civil rights movement. The best-known of the shootings came in Ferguson, Mo.
By Don Davis, Forum News Service