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Black Liberation Project activists say Mpls. police sprayed, assaulted them

Community activists with the Black Liberation Project (BLP) say that Minneapolis police pepper sprayed and assaulted community members as they filmed a police arrest of a teenager Wednesday night. Police have opened investigations into the incident, according to officials.

In a message uploaded to the group’s Facebook and Twitter pages, Black Liberation Project, which has staged several local protests and other actions in the wake of local and national killings of black men and women by police, said that two BLP members decided to film Minneapolis police as a black teenager who was riding a bike was arrested.

“While filming this interaction, BLP members and other community members were pepper sprayed, physically assaulted, and/or thrown to the ground…This gross overreaction by MPD is dangerous, unjust, and legally flimsy,” the statement said.

The teenager, the boy’s father, another community member and one BLP member were arrested, BLP said.

Read the entire statement below.

Minneapolis police spokesman Scott Seroka said the department is conducting a criminal investigation in regards to the arrestees as well as an internal review of what happened. 

According to the police report, at 10:42 p.m. Wednesday, officers saw a 16-year-old boy riding a bike across Lyndale Avenue N. near W. Broadway. Police said the teenager was interfering with traffic and causing vehicles to stop. The boy then rode his bicycle in front of a squad car when it was in the process of turning which caused the officer to have to stop. 

Officers went after the teenager and told him several times to stop, but the boy continued to ride his bike east on 21st Avenue N., the report said. Police were finally able to stop the teenager when they cut him off with the squad car. After police told him repeatedly to get off the bike, the teenager refused and "tensed up in manner that he was about to fight" when an officer grabbed his arm. "Officer had to take him down to the ground," the report said.

Further in the report, police say "a crowd formed around the officers and became hostile" and three other people were arrested.

The report did not mention any filming or the use of pepper spray, though it does say one of the adult arrestees received medical treatment.

The teenager, was arrested under suspicion of obstructing the legal process, a misdemeanor. He was released to the Juvenile Supervision Center. The other three suspects were arrested for reportedly rioting, which is a felony, and were released from jail Thursday afternoon.

Black Liberation Project statement:

Nonprofit seeks funds to reclaim fire-damaged HQ

Above: NOC's former headquarters, center-right featuring the grey paneling, on the day of the fire this April.

By Eric Roper and Erin Golden

Local nonprofit Neighborhoods Organizing for Change launched a fundraiser Thursday to buy the land beneath their former headquarters -- gutted in a blaze this spring -- in order to rebuild.

The effort marks the second business that is determined to stay at their former West Broadway location following the massive fire, which city officials now believe may have been intentional.

Construction code services manager Al Olson said Wednesday that the building containing the city's oldest grocery store, Brix Grocery & Meat, will remain standing as the owner develops plans to rehab. It was previously unclear whether the city would allow Brix's owner to proceed.

But unlike Brix, it appears NOC's 110-year-old building at 911 West Broadway won't be saved. Olson said Wednesday that permits to demolish the building have cleared initial approvals and wrecking will likely begin next week. 909 and 913 West Broadway will also be demolished.

Anthony Newby, NOC's executive director, said his group has a tentative agreement with the property owner to buy the land for $25,000 -- if NOC can raise that amount. The group launched an online fundraising campaign Thursday morning and had raised nearly $3,000 by late afternoon.

NOC had success with another fundraising campaign immediately after the fire but did not keep the money; the goal of that drive was to raise funds for residents affected by the blaze. The organization ended up giving out $23,000 to 23 residents.

"That was community money -- all online donations -- so we know that the community is following the story and is interested in investing in the long-term growth of the neighborhood," Newby said.

The group hopes that by getting the title to the land it will have more influence over other development plans on the block. But that would be the first step; Newby said the group would then have to launch a larger fundraising campaign and work with community members to plan and build a new headquarters.

For now, NOC is operating out of the offices of another nonprofit group, located two blocks away.

The fundraising drive comes on the heels of news earlier this week that police believe the fire may have been set intentionally. Police have not announced any suspects or motives.

"We're overwhelmed with the knowledge that someone would intentionally burn down the home of our beloved office along with the homes and businesses of dozens of dynamic residents," NOC said in its fundraising plea.

"We're stunned, saddened, and outraged - but NOT intimidated. In fact, we're more determined than ever to invest in our community, rebuild our vibrant block and reclaim our organizing space."