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5 People Shot At Black Lives Matter Protest In Minneapolis


In Minneapolis, police have several men in custody in connection with shootings that wounded five people at a Black Lives Matter demonstration late last night. The shootings happened outside a police precinct where crowds have been gathering to protest the killing of a young African-American man by police. Minnesota Public Radio reporter Brandt Williams has been following this story and joins us from Minneapolis. And tell us about the scene outside the police precinct late last night. What happened?

BRANDT WILLIAMS, BYLINE: Well, Kelly, eyewitnesses tell us a group of men in masks like ski masks approached the group just before 11 p.m. And one of the guys I spoke with said there was something odd about how these men were behaving. They came up kind of forcefully, and they kind of made motions about trying to join in but then really not.

Then - so the group started to ask them to remove their masks and leave. The men didn't leave, so they started to push them away, escort them away. And as one of the men fell to the ground, he got back up. They say he pulled out a gun. And there were shots fired, and people began running. One of the demonstrators - her name is Mica Grimm - said the scene was peaceful just before the attacks.

MICA GRIMM: This is what domestic terrorism looks like, and I don't know what it takes for someone to start to notice this, but I have video of what happened right before they were here. All that was going on were people eating and talking and hanging out by a fire. And they brought guns here to kill people.

MCEVERS: How long have these protests been going on?

WILLIAMS: Well, the protests started a week ago Sunday after police responded to a call about a domestic assault. Police say when they arrived, a young man named Jamar Clark - 24 year old - was interfering with paramedics who were helping Clark's girlfriend, and a scuffle broke out. Clark was fatally shot, and some eyewitnesses say he was handcuffed at the time. Now, the head of the police union here says that isn't true. He claims that Clark was reaching for an officer's gun.

MCEVERS: And what about these men that the police now have in custody? What do we know about them?

WILLIAMS: Well, Minneapolis police officials say that three men they have are - they describe them only as white men in their 20s. They have not described any type of motive for what was behind the shooting. However, protestors have told me that they believe that these men are part of some type of white supremacist group. Over the last week or so, there have been social media warnings to members of Black Lives Matter that there would be some men showing up at the protests with the intent to harm people.

MCEVERS: What are the police saying about the shooting?

WILLIAMS: So far, we haven't gotten much out of the police chief, Janee Harteau, just yet. Mayor Betsy Hodges released a brief statement saying police are doing everything they can to bring the suspects to justice. But Governor Mark Dayton did talk a bit about the shooting. He says that the shooting highlights some of his concerns about the protesters' safety.

MARK DAYTON: Last night just underscores the vulnerability of peaceful citizens exercising their First Amendment rights to some very treacherous criminal activity.

WILLIAMS: Now, Dayton has said he agrees with the protesters' rights to express their outrage over the shooting of Jamar Clark, but he's urged protesters to abandon their encampment 'cause they've been camping out near the fourth precinct.

MCEVERS: Well, what do the protesters plan to do?

WILLIAMS: Well, they say the shooting from last night has only stiffened their resolve to stay. Their demand is that they want to see the videos that were recorded from the night of the shooting. However, state and federal authorities that are in charge of the investigations - they're not showing any signs that they're going to release those videos.

MCEVERS: Minnesota Public Radio reporter Brandt Williams, thank you so much.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brandt Williams