8 arrested as #Justice4Jamar encampment bulldozed in Minneapolis

© Craig Lassig
Police in Minneapolis, Minnesota arrested eight people and demolished an encampment outside a police precinct overnight. Protesters had been camping out there for 18 days, demonstrating against the officer-involved shooting death of Jamar Clark.

Officers gave the Justice 4 Jamar encampment an ultimatum just before 4 a.m. local time, Black Lives Matter organizer Mica Grimm told Minnesota Public Radio.

"Officers started handing out a piece of paper that said our valuables needed to be collected within 10 minutes or we were going to be arrested and our valuables were going to be confiscated," Grimm said.

Police began tearing down the tents about 15 minutes later. Most at the encampment left voluntarily and peacefully, Black Lives Matter organizer Michael McDowell told Minnesota Public Radio, but there were a few confrontations.

"We were able, with our marshals, to move folks out," he said. "There was intimidation, with cops grabbing folks and things like that, but ultimately we were able to get everyone out safe."

Of the eight people arrested during the eviction process, seven were arrested for obstructing the legal process and one person for trespassing, Police Chief Janee Harteau said at a news conference.

"I do want to make notice to future protests that we will continue to support and facilitate your First Amendment rights and freedom of speech. But, we will also support and enforce the ordinances of the City of Minneapolis and the laws of the state of Minnesota," Harteau said.

After the protesters and their tents were removed, police and public works crews used a bevy of heavy equipment to erect concrete barriers in front of the precinct station, along with a steel fence on top. At least one tow truck was present to transport a camper trailer.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges addressed the decision to clear the camp and reopen the street in front of the 4th Precinct during a Thursday morning press conference.

"We have been balancing the safety needs of the precinct with the right for people to protest and have their voices be heard," Hodges said. "But the increasing safety risks and impact on the neighborhood, the impact on our ability to provide services in the city, made this morning the time to do that."

"It is time to pivot to a moment of working together on the issues we all care about to create one Minneapolis and move forward together," she added.

People living near the 4th Precinct had increasingly complained about the campers’ actions. They were especially upset about noise, vandalism and blocked streets. At a City Council safety committee meeting on Wednesday, neighbor Patricia Anderson said her daughter's car window has been smashed, bricks have been taken from a wall on her property and she's having trouble sleeping, AP reported.

Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel met with protesters on Sunday to discuss officials’ concerns about campfires there and emergency access to the site, AP reported at the time.

The protest camp has cost the police department about $750,000 in overtime, not counting its removal, Harteau said.

On Thursday afternoon, protest organizers from the Black Lives Matter movement plan to demonstrate in front of the Minneapolis City Hall to protest the clearing of the camp, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

"[W]e will converge on City Hall in response to our Mayor and City Council's continued brutality against peaceful protesters who have endured a white supremacist terrorist attack, police violence, and freezing temperatures to demand justice for Jamar Clark," the group wrote in a Facebook event.

Black Lives Matter has repeatedly asked authorities to release tapes associated with Clark’s shooting death and to appoint a special prosecutor in the case.

Clark, a 24-year-old black man, was shot in the head by a police officer who responded to a report of an assault around midnight on November 15. He died a day later after he was taken off life support. According to some witness accounts, Clark was unarmed and handcuffed when he was shot. Investigators have confirmed that Clark was unarmed at the time and that handcuffs had been found at the scene; his death was ruled a homicide.

The shooting triggered protests and arrests, alongside demands that police release video of the incident.

Five protesters were shot at a Black Lives Matter demonstration last Tuesday. Three white men are in police custody over the incident.