MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A night after a shooting near a Minneapolis protest that left five people injured, hundreds of demonstrators at the same site quietly milled around, sharing coffee, pizza and doughnuts, and stacking up firewood.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison was among those gathered Tuesday night outside the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct, which has seen ongoing protests since a city officer fatally shot Jamar Clark on Nov. 15. Ellison said the mood was good, given the attack a day earlier, but said he still had safety concerns.
“The Jamar Clark family has urged us to start thinking about an exit strategy, and I think that would be wise.”
Ellison’s office early Tuesday issued a statement on behalf of the Clark family after the shootings, calling for an end to the protests for safety’s sake, a request that organizers quickly rejected. Protesters are calling for the release of video of Clark’s shooting, which police said happened after Clark struggled with officers. But some people who said they saw the shooting said the 24-year-old was handcuffed.
Police, who haven’t commented on a motive for the attack on the protesters, said three people were in custody. Authorities arrested a 23-year-old white man and two more men — both white, ages 26 and 21 — turned themselves in Tuesday afternoon. A 32-year-old Hispanic man was arrested but later released. No further details were immediately available.
The shooting, which left five people with injuries that were not-life threatening, followed several racially disparaging comments about the protests that had been posted on social media in recent days. One video showed a white man brandishing a gun while claiming to be on his way to the protests. Police issued a warning Friday night, asking demonstrators to be vigilant and report any suspicious behavior to authorities.
“We ain’t scared,” Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds told a large crowd gathered for a concert at the precinct early Tuesday evening. “We can’t back down. We ain’t turning around, but we’re here fighting for justice.”
Fourteen people whom protesters believed to be white supremacists were kicked out of the area one recent night, said Mica Grimm, an organizer of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. She said they came in with their faces covered and filmed the crowd but would not talk to people. Some made racist comments.
Grimm said protesters had been threatened by one group online and had been working with hackers to figure out the group’s plans. On one night, Grimm said, online chatter included a post stating that a pie had been left at the protest site with rat poison.
“We made sure that all the pies were thrown out, and actually other food was thrown out for fear of contamination,” she said.
Grimm said concerns were brought up to police, but protesters felt the threats were not being taken seriously.
The situation escalated Monday night when members of the protesters’ security team approached three men and one woman who were standing under a “Justice4Jamar” sign and asked what they were doing.
“We’re here for Jamar,” one said, according to Henry Habu, who had been providing security for the demonstrators.
Habu said he and others tried to escort the four away from the protest and they took off running. He and others said at least three members of the group were wearing masks that covered the lower half of their faces.
Alexander Dewan Apprentice Clark, who said he chased the attackers, said one of the men fell and when Clark helped him up, he felt what he believed to be a bulletproof vest under the man’s clothing.
Protester Jie Wronski-Riley, who is also on the security team, said most of the crowd stopped following the men about midway up the street, but a few protesters gave chase. Wronski-Riley and a friend followed to make sure everyone came back safe. After running about another half block, the suspects started shooting.
Some protesters criticized the police response time and said officers arrived in full riot gear. Officers aggressively pushed back on the crowd, Wronski-Riley said, at one point using a chemical irritant to keep people back.
Police did not answer questions about their response to the shootings or about their response to prior reports of suspicious behavior.
Wesley Martin was among those shot. But Tuesday, he was back at the scene, walking with a cane after being hit in the left leg and treated at a hospital.
He said his 19-year-old brother, Tevin, was wounded in the stomach and was in intensive care but was expected to recover.
Asked why he came back after being shot, Martin said: “Bullets aren’t going to stop me from supporting what I want to do anyway.”