Dozens of demonstrators huddled around bonfires Saturday evening, maintaining their presence at a Minneapolis police station where they have established an encampment following the death of a black man who was shot by police last weekend.
Minneapolis civil rights activist Mel Reeves said the primary goal of the protests is to see the officers involved in the death of Jamar Clark prosecuted based on statements of people who say they saw the shooting. He said the officers should face charges and “go through the same procedures that we do. We think they’re guilty, but let the court decide.”
Union organizers held a solidarity rally earlier in the day where several speakers said they supported the demonstrators’ calls for improved relations between police officers and community members and the prosecution of officers involved in Jamar Clark’s death.
Kyle Edwards of AFSCME Local 3800, representing University of Minnesota clerical workers, told the crowd that working class people are becoming aware that “we’re all in this together.” He led a chant of, “No justice, no peace! Prosecute the police!”
Protesters, led by leaders from the NAACP and Black Lives Matter, also have called for the release of surveillance footage taken at the scene of the deadly encounter early Sunday.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton met with Clark’s family and with leaders of a local Black Lives Matter group on Saturday.
Dayton said he will urge the Justice Department to investigate any police actions in Minneapolis this past week that may have violated civil rights.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Vanita Gupta spoke by telephone and reiterated that releasing the video would be “extremely detrimental” to the federal investigation, Dayton added.
Mica Grimm of Black Lives Matter-Minneapolis said she told officials at the meeting that the protest won’t end until the community says it’s OK.
Both officers involved in the shooting, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, have been placed on standard administrative leave. Authorities haven’t said who fired the fatal shot.
Police have said the officers were responding to an assault call and found the 24-year-old Clark interfering with paramedics. Authorities say there was a struggle. The head of the Minneapolis police union has said Clark was shot after reaching for an officer’s gun.
Protesters have said they don’t believe that version of events and want to see video evidence investigators are reviewing.
Authorities have said the footage – from an ambulance, mobile police camera, public housing cameras and people’s cellphones – doesn’t show the full incident and that releasing the recordings would taint a review by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. A federal criminal civil rights probe also is underway.
Clark’s cousin Kenya McKnight said the family wants people to remember that Clark was loved and cared for and “he was really on this path of getting his life together.” Funeral plans have been set for Wednesday at Shiloh Temple International.
Clark spent much of his 20s in and out of prison, serving a three-year sentence for a first-degree robbery conviction in 2010. He had been convicted of a petty misdemeanor for possessing a small amount of marijuana in 2009. Earlier this year, he was convicted of a felony count of terroristic threats and sentenced to 15 months in prison, but his sentence was stayed for five years and he was out on probation.
McKnight said any focus on Clark’s background is misplaced. “America has a background,” she said, “and a criminal record of violence against black people.”
Some people say they saw him handcuffed at the time of the shooting – a claim police have disputed. McKnight, speaking for the family, said that’s not something they’re concerned with.
“That’s not the point. The point is, he was unarmed, on the ground, now he’s dead,” she said.