Minneapolis protesters thanked for 'peaceful' withdrawal from precinct camp
Officials shut down the encampment because of safety risks and impact on emergency response times
By Erin Golden
MINNEAPOLIS — Twelve hours after Minneapolis police dismantled the encampment outside Fourth Precinct headquarters in north Minneapolis, about 300 protesters filled the City Hall rotunda Thursday afternoon to rally against the shutdown and demand more answers about the police shooting of Jamar Clark.
Leaders of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis told a cheering crowd that they were proud of what had happened in the course of their 18-day occupation of the police precinct, including the launch of a federal investigation into Clark’s death and the release of the names of two officers involved in the shooting.
Protesters continue to push for other demands not yet met: release of video of Clark’s shooting and prosecution of the officers without a grand jury. They say witnesses to the shooting saw that Clark, who is black, was handcuffed when he was shot by an officer. Police have said that Clark was not handcuffed.
“It’s because we showed up in the streets and we showed up at the door and said, ‘You have to stop killing us,’?” organizer Adja Gildersleve told the crowd. “You don’t have the power. This is real power.”
Clark’s cousin, Alexander Clark, told those assembled, “The people are tired. It’s time for the people to fight back.”
About 90 minutes into the rally, protesters filed downstairs and into a tunnel that links City Hall to the nearby Government Center building. They paused outside of Wings Financial, a credit union rally organizers said is a major financial supporter of the police union. Protesters used window paint to write messages on the bank’s glass windows — some supporting “Justice for Jamar” and others using expletives opposing the police — before heading back to City Hall.
Around 6 p.m., the protesters headed out of City Hall into freezing temperatures to march to a law enforcement social function at Elsie’s Restaurant, Bar and Bowling Center in northeast Minneapolis.
At the same time, about 100 people gathered at Bottineau Park, also in northeast Minneapolis, for a protest targeting police union president Bob Kroll. Demonstrators said they want Kroll, who has been outspoken in defending the officers involved in Clark’s shooting, removed from his position and from the department over allegations of discrimination and mistreatment of minorities while on and off the job.
Around 8 p.m., the two groups of protesters converged to march toward the northeast Minneapolis headquarters of the police union. Fences were erected around the building before the crowd arrived, and a tarp covered its sign out front.
Demonstrators then rallied in the street on University Avenue NE. as officers filmed the gathering from the rooftop of a nearby apartment complex. Then they marched back downtown.
Organizers said they would continue bringing “the fight to [MPD’s] doorstep.”
The latest round of protests were sparked by the police department’s early-morning shutdown of the encampment on Plymouth Avenue N. Around 4 a.m., officers began issuing a series of orders for the approximately 50 protesters outside of the precinct headquarters to leave. Demonstrators reported on social media that they were given 10 minutes to collect their belongings and move out.
Most left on their own, though police made eight arrests — seven for obstructing the legal process and one for trespassing.
Police, firefighters and public works employees quickly moved in to haul away tents, blankets and supplies and to put out protesters’ warming fires.
Within a few hours, the street was reopened to traffic and city crews were placing tall metal fencing atop concrete barricades surrounding the police station.
In a morning news conference, Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janeé Harteau said officials moved in to shut down the encampment because of “increasing safety risks” and its “impact on our ability to provide service to the city.”
The mayor, chief and council members who represent the North Side have pointed to pollution from fires, vandalism, threats against police, slowing emergency response times and violence, most notably last week’s shooting of five protesters.
Both praised the work of the police department and Hodges thanked protesters for their “peaceful” withdrawal from the precinct.
“It is time to pivot to a moment of working together on issues we all care about, to create ‘One Minneapolis’ and move forward together,” the mayor said.
The chief warned protesters that the city would not tolerate more protests that include open fires or encampments.
“We will continue to support and facilitate your First Amendment rights and freedom of speech,” she said, “but we will also support and enforce the ordinances of the city of Minneapolis and the laws of the state of Minnesota.”
Harteau said her department had spent $750,000 on overtime pay in the 18 days since the protests began.
Copyright 2015 the Star Tribune