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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 Avenue. 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 still in custody at the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office Jail as of Thursday afternoon.

Black Liberation Project statement:

Regulators want Mpls. scrapyard to close if it can't meet air rules

State pollution regulators have asked a judge to order an upper riverfront scrapyard in Minneapolis to stop violating air quality standards, even if that means reducing or ending operations, and to pay for permit violations.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency filed with Ramsey County District Court its first public explanation of why it has focused on Northern Metal in its investigation of exceedances of air quality standards.

The agency said that monitors on either side of the Northern Metal yard at 2800 N. Pacific St. have recorded eight times when air in the area exceed state standards.  It said it is focusing on Northern Metal because monitors found that the violations occurred downwind from the yard, and because monitoring filters contained significantly more metal particles than other monitors in Minneapolis.

The company’s yard receives scrap metal, and pulverizes some of it in a shredder inside an enclosed building that is equipped with what the company has described as the best available technology to control emissions. Installation of the shredder was controversial among some area residents.

Attorney Daniel White, representing Northern Metal, responded: "Simply put: MPCA's response is a desperate attempt to excuse its judicially-recognized non-compliance with the air emissions rules and protocols."

The monitoring was begun by the agency after its board voted in 2012 to relax the permit for the shredder without further environmental studies sought by three legislators, some area residents, and environmental advocates. That was done after the shredder failed to meet standards set in its original permit after it began operating in 2009.

The agency said when it revamped the permit that its studies found that the air-quality standards for fine particles would be exceeded by area firms but that the shredder contributed only 2 percent of that load. The violations resulting from the agency’s monitoring generally involve larger particles.

The agency also said that both its staff and a camera added to one of the monitoring sites have observed dust escaping from the shredder building.

Northern Metal went to court last month, arguing that the agency has unfairly singled out its facility in investigating the violations. The filing this week responded to an order by Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann that the agency shut down the monitors or explain why not.

The agency asked the judge to assess a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per day of violation. It denied the firm's contention that it was not complying with state and federal procedures governing air monitors.