News & Politics

Does City of Minneapolis Bear Responsibility for BLM Protest Shooting?

Black Lives Matter protesters and supporters march from the Minneapolis Police Department's Fourth Precinct to the Federal Building in Minneapolis, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

A week-long protest at the 4th Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department culminated in violence late Monday evening as shots rang out. A confrontation between protesters and alleged “white supremacists” ended in shots fired by the latter, injuring five protesters. Circumstances suggest that the city bears some responsible for allowing the situation to escalate.

Black Lives Matter has been sustaining an “occupation” of the 4th Precinct since the shooting death on November 15th of Jamar Clark. Police responded early that Sunday morning to support paramedics who were tussling with Clark at the scene of a domestic abuse complaint. Beyond that, details remain murky, subject to investigations by the police, the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and a federal investigation supported by city officials and the governor.

The investigation will likely remain ongoing for several weeks. In the meantime, Black Lives Matter protesters demand “#Justice4Jamar” and the release of video footage held as part of the investigation. These demands are underscored by the “occupation” of the 4th Precinct, which entails an encampment surrounding the police station complete with tents and fires in the street.

Common sense would suggest that tents and fires in a public street should not be tolerated. Nevertheless, Mayor Betsy Hodges finds herself in a political pickle. Much of her support comes from elements sympathetic to Black Lives Matter. Yet residents in the area grow weary of the melee in their streets. During a radio interview, civil rights activist Ron Edwards relayed complaints from local residents about out-of-state agitators who have invaded their neighborhood. Even the family of Jamar Clark, in whose name the protest continues, have called for it to stop.

Lieutenant Bob Kroll, head of the local police union, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the protests were dampening the capacity of the police department to service residents:

[Kroll] said he is frustrated that the chief allowed protesters to pitch any tents at the North Side precinct building. Instead of patrolling the streets, officers from the precinct have to guard and manually open the gate to a parking lot where the squads and their vehicles are stored.

They monitor the encampment from the precinct’s windows and security cameras while several SWAT units are on standby, he said.

To backfill, officers from other precincts have to patrol the North Side communities. This takes them away from their own areas and potentially leads to longer response times to 911 calls, he said.

“This can only get worse,” he said. “Our officers feel helpless, like they are sitting ducks.”

Add to this accounts from Monday night, including video footage allegedly taken from the perspective of the shooters, and it appears that Black Lives Matter protesters have laid exclusive claim to the streets surrounding the 4th Precinct. They’re deciding who can stay and who must go, and they’re taking it upon themselves to “escort” anyone they think “weren’t supposed to be there” from the area.

At what point has the city lost control? When you have protesters flaunting the law, assuming physical control of public property, taking it upon themselves to physically confront people on the street, at what point has the city neglected its responsibility to maintain law and order?

These are questions which no one seems to be asking in the mainstream media. The conventional wisdom seems to be that cracking down on Black Lives Matter would be a greater evil than tolerating continued disorder.

Emerging facts suggest that the shooters from Monday night may have been looking for trouble. Three men have been arrested, and clues on social media suggest that they may have been white supremacists trolling the protest. Even so, it should be noted that there would be no protest to troll if city officials, particularly the mayor and the police chief, upheld the letter of the law.