Minneapolis police moved in early Thursday to break up an encampment that protesters set up more than two weeks ago outside the Fourth Precinct police station in north Minneapolis.
Police issued dispersal orders around 4 a.m. and gave the 50 demonstrators protesting the shooting of an unarmed black man more than two weeks ago 10 to 15 minutes to leave the site outside the station on 1900 block of Plymouth Avenue, said police spokesman Scott Seroka.
Police made “a few arrests” of those who did not comply, Seroka said.
At least two city dump trucks carried away tents, blankets and supplies used to make fires that protesters have used to block Plymouth Avenue for the past 18 days. The street remains closed to traffic.
Black Lives Matter Minneapolis on its Facebook page have announced a Fourth Precinct Shutdown Eviction Rally for 4 p.m. Thursday at Minneapolis City Hall. It says:
"Today at 4pm we 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. We reiterate our demands: Release the tapes, appoint a special prosecutor with no grand jury for Jamar Clark's case, and institute a safety plan to protect Minneapolis resident's from continued police violence. We will not be intimidated or silenced. We have nothing to lose but our chains. We ready, we comin'."
The eviction notice police presented to protesters said the department remains steadfast to its commitment to help facilitate demonstrations outside the Fourth Precinct. "It is a city building within city grounds and people have the right to peacefully demonstrate or protest," the notice said.
But it said that neither structures nor fires will be allowed on city property and that access to the police station must remain open.
“You will have 10 minutes to collect your property and leave the area,” the eviction notice reads. “City workers will be along to help people remove their structures and property from the grass area in front of the Precinct.”
On Wednesday, neighborhood frustrations with the protest site spilled into an impromptu City Hall hearing and police separately said the protests likely played a role in slower recent response times.
A handful of neighbors upset about noise, vandalism and blocked streets vented concerns to the City Council’s public safety committee Wednesday, the first time the council has invited the public to formally weigh in on protests over the Nov. 15 shooting of Jamar Clark by police. Several supporters of the protesters interrupted a City Council meeting last month to speak on the topic, but were escorted out.
“In the beginning, I was out there, too,” said Patricia Anderson, who lives near the Fourth Precinct. “I’m all for justice. But I’m on the receiving end of no peace right now.”
Anderson said her daughter’s car window has been smashed, bricks have been taken from a retaining wall on her property, and she is having trouble sleeping at night. She said she wants the protesters to leave and asked the council to “help us restore justice back in our community where I live.”
Data released by police Wednesday showed that response times for top priority calls — typically a serious crime still in progress — rose both citywide and in the Fourth Precinct in late November.
Between April and September, the time between dispatch and police arrival for those calls averaged 5 minutes, 26 seconds citywide. In the last two weeks of November, it was 6 minutes, 5 seconds. Isolating the Fourth Precinct, the difference was 5 minutes, 23 seconds vs. 6 minutes, 17 seconds.
Assistant Chief Kris Arneson said the protest was among several factors likely contributing to that change. Officers from other precincts less familiar with the geography of the North Side have been working at the Fourth Precinct to handle calls as other officers guard the building, she said.
Other precincts have not had less staff as a result of the backfilling, however.
But there have also been six homicides in Minneapolis in the past two weeks, which “takes a lot of staff power,” and a wave of retirees in recent years won’t be fully replaced until a new class finishes this December.
“We always like to get there as fast as we can and to serve our communities as quickly as we can. So, yes, we are concerned about that,” Arneson said, later cautioning that it is only a two-week window of data.
Police Chief Janeé Harteau and Mayor Betsy Hodges have previously raised concerns about protesters throwing rocks and threatening police at the precinct.
But Arneson declined Wednesday to answer broader questions about the logistical challenges of operating the precinct in the midst of the protest, or how the protests have affected relations with police.
‘Gone on long enough’
At the start of Wednesday’s committee meeting, council members took the unusual step of adding an item to the agenda allowing for public comment on the situation. Such public comment is typically reserved for items the council intends to act on, and posted in advance to allow all interested parties to participate.
Council Member Blong Yang, chairman of the committee, said he had heard from many people in his North Side ward who wanted to share their “grievances” with the council and felt Wednesday’s meeting was an appropriate time to allow it. Though the public comment period was not listed on the agenda, he had notified at least one of the neighbors who spoke.
Four north Minneapolis residents told council members they are worried about issues ranging from slower emergency response times to vandalism, expressing concern that the city hasn’t stepped in.
Two other speakers, both from south Minneapolis, expressed support for the protesters. One was Dave Bicking, a longtime community activist who was in the audience for another matter. The other, Jan Nye, told council members they haven’t done enough to ensure police are disciplined after complaints are filed.
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis police union, said his voice mail is filled with messages from North Side residents “crying to me for help because they’ve lost faith in you. They’ve lost faith in the mayor, they’ve lost faith in the police administration.”
Kroll added that council members should “pull your mayor back, quit micromanaging the police department and let people with experience on how to remove unlawful protesters from the area in.”
Council President Barb Johnson said she is “particularly troubled” by smoke from protesters’ warming fires, and concerned about residents not being able to park on streets crowded by demonstrators’ cars, and she reiterated support for the city ordering an end to the encampment.
“Real people’s lives are being disrupted,” she said.
Yang also said the encampment should end.
“At some point, we do have to say: ‘Are we going to allow this to happen anywhere in the freaking city?’ ” Yang said. “Are we going to allow this to happen in Ward 2, 10, 11, 9, 13? At some point we have to put our foot down and say: ‘This has gone on long enough.’ ”
But at least one member of the committee disagreed. Council Member Cam Gordon, who has been a vocal supporter of the demonstrations, said he was “disturbed and confused” by the last-minute timing of the comment session and worried that it could be used to fuel a shutdown of the protests.
“I hope that we’re not going to base this small session as a foundation for too many big decisions,” he said.