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After tense night, calm reigns at protests in Minneapolis over Jamar Clark’s death

Demonstrators protesting the death of a man by a police officer in Minneapolis call for the release of surveillance videos that allegedly show the shooting. (Video: Reuters)

MINNEAPOLIS — A circle of more than 100 people gathered in front of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Fourth Precinct on Thursday night, chanting, “Show us the tapes.”

The demonstrators were referring to the recorded footage from cameras and bystander cellphones that might shed light on an altercation between police and 24-year-old Jamar Clark early Sunday morning. Clark, who is African American and was unarmed, was shot by police and brought to a local hospital where, a day later, he was taken off life support and pronounced dead.

Thursday was the fifth day that protesters, fluctuating in size from dozens to more than 200 people, have occupied the space surrounding the precinct. They have gathered to decry the death of Clark as senseless and racially motivated, and to criticize the handling of the ensuing investigation by police and local government.

[Protesters say they are not going anywhere. Here’s why.]

At around 12:45 a.m. Sunday, officers Mark Ringgenberg, 30, and Dustin Schwarze, 28, responded to a call for help from paramedics when they confronted Clark. Paramedics said Clark was, “disrupting their ability to aid an assault victim at that location,” according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), the state agency investigating the shooting. The FBI has also begun a separate inquiry.

The assault victim would later be identified as Clark’s girlfriend. In a statement following the shooting, the Minneapolis Police Department said, “A physical altercation took place with the suspect, who was not in handcuffs. At some point during the struggle, an officer discharged his weapon, striking the suspect.”

This contradicts some witnesses who said Clark was handcuffed by police when shot. While handcuffs were found at the scene, BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said, “we’re still examining whether or not they were on Mr. Clark or whether or not they were just … at the scene.”

[Minneapolis police officers involved in shooting death of Jamar Clark are identified]

Skepticism over police accounts has grown among protesters. “If Jamar had done wrong, they would have released the tapes, it would have been out,” local resident Emma Robinson said.

Thursday’s protests, which included singing, dancing and performances by local artists, were markedly more peaceful than the night before. On Wednesday night and into early Thursday morning, animosity between protesters and police rose as police took apart some of the protesters’ camps that were blocking entries to the precinct. Some protesters threw rocks and glass bottles, authorities say, while officers sprayed chemical irritants at protesters and fired rounds that release green paint.

Marlon Marshall said he was in front of the precinct on Wednesday when he saw a commotion and heard that protesters on the west side of the building were being sprayed. He said he grabbed pre-prepared bottles of milk, to be used to soothe eyes that have been sprayed, and ran to help.

“Everyone was running,” he said, “a few people had been trampled on.”

According to partial service records of the officers released by the Minneapolis Police Department, both Ringgenberg and Schwarze have been with the city for 13 months and each has seven years of police experience. The race of the two officers has not been released, nor does the public know which officer fired the shot that killed Clark.

Both were hired in September 2014 and have no record of disciplinary action in Minneapolis. Ringgenberg and another officer were accused of excessive force in 2012 while working for the San Diego Police Department, resulting in a civil rights lawsuit that was settled, according to the Associated Press.

Now that the officers’ names have been made public, protesters have focused on demanding the release of tapes from witness cellphones, an ambulance camera, surveillance cameras on a public housing building and a police observation station. Evans, superintendent of the BCA, said the recordings do not show the event in its entirety. The Elk’s Club, a bar across the street from the scene, has several mounted cameras that would have been positioned to record the altercation. Evans said investigators are “working with the Elks Club … to examine their video.”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who represents the area that includes Minneapolis, showed up on Thursday evening to speak on behalf of the protesters and call on state prosecutors to release the video of Clark’s shooting. On Wednesday night, an image of his son, Jeremiah, with his hands up as an officer pointed a paint gun in his direction, went viral.

As Thursday evening wore on, temperatures dipped below freezing and wind speeds reached 15 mph. Mayor Betsy Hodges visited the protests for the first time and, though she had called on the FBI to investigate Clark’s death, she was booed by some protesters who had been requesting her presence since Sunday.

Throughout the night, community members took turns expressing how they felt about Clark’s death within the circle. A lot of their feelings had to do with more than the last five days.

Nicque Mabrey, who lives in South Minneapolis, but grew up between rural Wisconsin and North Minneapolis told the crowd that North Minneapolis was the first place she’d found a community that looked like her. “We’re hurting and healing together,” she said. “I think everyone here is still deeply angry.”

Tellisha Lipford, a 12-year-old who lives a few blocks from the Fourth Precinct and the scene of Clark’s death, said she and her peers haven’t talked about Clark’s death in any of her classes.

“Some of my teachers have told us not to talk about it,” she said.

Jamar Clark’s cousin, Cameron, has remained a common sight at the protests. Clark’s sister arrived at the protests on Thursday, but she fainted and was taken away by ambulance shortly after.

Thursday’s protests carried on peacefully, though early Friday morning, the Minneapolis police said they had arrested two men after finding profanity spray-painted on the precinct’s walls.


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