Minneapolis officials gathered Thursday to describe the police response to protests after officers clashed with demonstrators Wednesday night in the wake of the fatal police shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark.
About 400 people gathered outside the Minneapolis police 4th precinct — where some have camped out — on Wednesday amid ongoing protests over the death of the unarmed black man. Clark's death has prompted a state and federal investigation after questions arose over whether he was in handcuffs at the time he was shot.
Most people who gathered Wednesday night were peaceful, Police Chief Janeé Harteau told reporters. But a handful threw bottles, rocks, and bricks. Someone within the crowd sprayed a "chemical irritant," she said, and officers also used their own chemical irritant when rocks were thrown and property was damaged. Damage to police property is so far estimated at $38,000, she said.
Late in the night, three Molotov cocktails were thrown and officers heard nearby gunfire.
"We have a history of helping to facilitate peaceful demonstrations," Harteau said. "We've done it over the past several months and the past several years...We will not tolerate violent actions that will put anyone at risk."
She attributed the violence to agitators from outside the community, possibly members of an anarchist group.
“We believe we are dealing with anarchists based on the flag that we saw,” Harteau said. “We believe people from outside of the community are coming in to perpetrate violence.”
Officers fired .40-caliber marking rounds — which contain compressed chalk — at people who appeared to be acting violently, she said. The less-than-lethal rounds have about the impact of a paintball, she said.
Reporters asked the chief about reports that officers had aimed guns at protesters. One photo circulating on Twitter showed U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison's son and an officer with some type of shell launcher, but it was not immediately clear what type of rounds it contained or where the officer was aiming. Police did not comment specifically on the image. Ellison's office said he was returning to Minnesota ahead of schedule after seeing the image.
Harteau added that the department had not received any complaints about individual officers' actions, but she encouraged anyone who may have been mistreated to contact the internal affairs unit.
"I am incredibly proud of the officers and their actions," she said. "They love this city and they want to make sure everyone is safe."
A group of protesters also arrived Wednesday night at Mayor Betsy Hodges' home.
Hodges, who later met with the demonstrators, thanked them for the respect they showed her, and added she believed the city, Black Lives Matter, and other groups within the community could work together longterm.
"I was happy to have that conversation," she said.
Hodges added she would not comment more on the circumstances of Clark's death in the interest of protecting the independent investigation. Activists have called for the release of video showing the shooting, and another protest is planned for Thursday. Meanwhile, Hodges said she was meeting regularly with the Clark family, the police chief, local clergy, and activists.
"We are a city with many voices," she said. "We are a city with many communities. We are a city with many concerns. It is important that everyone’s voice is heard."
Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Claudia Koerner at email@example.com.
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