Small wood fires at the protest encampment outside the police station in north Minneapolis drew the attention Sunday of the city's fire chief, who has concerns about emergency vehicles being able to get through as a substantial snowstorm looms Monday and Tuesday.
Fire Chief John Fruetel met briefly with protesters, who have been outside the Fourth Precinct police headquarters for two weeks since an officer fatally shot Jamar Clark. Their presence blocks all lanes of traffic on Plymouth Avenue, a key east-west thoroughfare on the North Side.
The chief alerted the news media to the meeting, but Black Lives Matter activists blocked reporters and photographers from covering it.
Fruetel issued a statement explaining that "we want to make sure the community is safe, and they are safe. We have a storm coming, so we talked about that a little bit."
Fire officials are not acting yet to address their concerns. "We had a conversation about [removing the firewood and fire pits], and we'll see how that goes," the chief added.
Fruetel said he was received "very well" by the activists and came away believing "they will make some room for us, and we will continue the conversation and come up with some resolution. We are observing from afar. … We are concerned about the snow coming and getting the emergency vehicles through the street."
As of midafternoon Sunday, 50 or so protesters were maintaining at least five small fires, and stacks of firewood were blocking Plymouth Avenue.
Last week, Minneapolis Urban League President Steve Belton urged an end to the vigil to "restore order" to the area, which he said has endured gunfire, traffic and service interruptions, smoke from the protesters' fires, and hours of helicopter noise.
The Black Lives Matter protesters have been dug in outside the police station since Clark, a 24-year-old black man, was shot in a struggle with police late at night a few blocks to the east on Nov. 15.
Two police officers are on administrative leave as the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and federal authorities investigate the shooting.
Some activists contend that Clark was handcuffed at the time he was shot. The head of the police union said that Clark was not cuffed.