Activists attack officers trying to clear homeless encampment in Minneapolis, punching and choking cops

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Protesters assaulted Minneapolis police officers as law enforcement personnel attempted a scheduled clearing of the Near North homeless encampment Thursday morning.

The city of Minneapolis had requested assistance from the Minneapolis Police Department in closing the encampment after the Minneapolis Health Department and Community Planning and Economic Development Department (CPED) determined that the location demonstrated “contamination, fire hazards, and other health and safety risks.”

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, more than 100 protesters were present at the encampment as officers arrived at approximately 7am Thursday, March 18.

When officers began to tape off the area, they noted that several dumpsters had been pushed into the road.  Several people began tearing down the tape.

Police were then “confronted by several men” and were hit with snowballs.  

According to the MPD, approximately 25 to 30 people  “were ‘actively challenging’ officers and pushing against their line.”  One person then physically attacked an officer and resisted arrest, and then another officer was punched in the face.

As people surrounded the officers, a woman jumped on the back of one officer and attempted to choke him.

According to the Police Tribune, protesters attacked officers from behind as they attempted to make arrests of those who were already attacking them.

Officers had to utilize pepper spray against a line of protesters.

One bystander video, which has been shared widely over social media and is shown repeatedly starting at 0:47 in the news segment below, shows multiple protesters attacking police officers.

This short video has been accompanied by cries of “police brutality” on social media, as it appears also to show an officer kneeling on the upper back of a protester after pulling the protester off another officer.

The MPD is reviewing its use of force policies, as is customary after such an incident, but Chief Medaria Arradondo made it clear that he did not tolerate the assault of police officers.

He stated at a press conference:

“From the limited video that I have seen, I was appalled by the actions of those community members that attacked my officers.” 

Arradondo added: 

“I am thankful that they were not seriously injured.”

In all, five people were arrested, and five officers suffered minor injuries in the melee.

Police departed the scene without removing the encampment.

The Near North encampment was established in October of 2020 after residents were moved out of a city park.

According to a statement from the city of Minneapolis, city authorities have made two previous attempts to close Near North.  A February 12 closure date was extended to February 25 due to extreme cold, and then the February 24 date was cancelled in order to give residents more time to “secure more permanent housing.”

The city stated that at that time, it told residents:

“the camp will be closed in the near future due to public health risk of site contamination, and that the closure could happen sooner if conditions at the site changed.”

City officials and resident representatives have given conflicting accounts of the closure process and alternative housing options.

As noted above, the city has claimed it had discussed potential closure with residents well in advance.  According to KARE11 News, the city also posted notices on Monday, March 15, about the expected encampment clearance Thursday, March 18.

Activists from Near North, however, stated on social media in a tweeted call to arms that they had only a scant two days’ notice about a shutdown.

Furthermore, activists also declared that for the 20 residents of Near North:

“The city has given no place to go.

“Even temporary shelters lack capacity.”

This declaration flies in the face of a statement from the city regarding the closure, which noted:

“Currently, there is enough capacity in the shelter system to provide alternative accommodation for everyone at the encampment. As of this morning, there were 29 men’s shelter beds and 46 women’s shelter beds available in the shelter system.”

The city added:

“Outreach workers have been engaging with residents to connect them to shelter and housing resources and will continue to do so until the encampment is closed. 

“The City will also provide transportation to encampment residents to help them get to shelter, housing or to stay with a friend or family member on the closure date.”

In addition, a public notice posted at the site listed resources and promised the availability of outreach workers.

Despite the apparent availability of resources and shelter, however, some residents simply do not want to move out of the encampment to a shelter facility.

One resident, Sandy Kelting, told the Star Tribune:

“Most of us have had bad experiences with shelters. They get you under their thumb, they treat you like children.” 

She added:

”I literally would rather take a chance on hypothermia than go back to the shelter. That’s how a lot of us feel.”

John Tribbett, street outreach member of St. Stephen’s Human Services, explained further that shelters come with “many problems — overcrowding, stringent rules — that are exacerbated in a pandemic.”

He told the Star Tribune:

“There’s a long-running narrative that treats homelessness in our community like a math problem.” 

Tribbett continued:

“It’s looking at a spreadsheet and saying we have X amount of beds available, so therefore people who are outside could opt to use those beds, and since they’re not, they’re making a choice not to go to shelter. 

“And that’s a very reductive way of understanding what’s happening in people’s lives.”

Near North activists have tweeted that they are demanding:

“Land to move to together, on which to establish permanent homes, before leaving this camp.”

There is no report at this time as to when or whether the city of Minneapolis will renew its efforts to clear out the Near North camp.

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Police finally say it’s time to destroy the Minneapolis cop-free ‘autonomous zone’ at ‘George Floyd Park’ – but won’t say when

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Minneapolis leaders have announced that the cop-free “autonomous zone” erected in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd last year will be reopened, calling to continued blockade an untenable situation.

In a press conference Wednesday, Minneapolis Chief of Police Medaria Arradondo said they will reopen the autonomous zone, but did not give specific plans as to when or how that will be accomplished. He said:

“Violence in any part of our city must be addressed and those contributing to the harm of our neighborhoods have to be held accountable. We are going to restore peace and safety to that neighborhood, and we’re going to do it collectively with the help and a force multiplier by our partners. And we will not tolerate that any longer, and that intersection must be reopened.

“The best remedy right now is for us to open up 38th and Chicago, and it has to happen. It will happen.”

Asked by reporters when the re-opening would occur, the chief said:

“I want to stress that it is not a matter of if, it is when it happens. It will be forthcoming.”

Chief Arradondo pointed out that the cities ShotSpotter activations, which detect gunshots inside the city, had increased over 2500% in the area of the “autonomous zone” from 2019 to 2020.

Officials said the timing of the re-opening of the “autonomous zone” was not related to the up-coming trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day last year. The Chief said:

“We as a collective leadership will make the plans based on the best information, the best intelligence, what is safe for all. We will dictate that timing and not let the trial dictate that.”

The chief is taking a bold stand against the protesters inside the “autonomous zone,’ saying the time has come shut down the trouble spot, which has seen drastic increases in violence, as well as prevented police from enforcing laws:

“I am putting them (occupants of the zone) on notice. Enough is enough. Our community will not tolerate this anymore.

“It was a very complex issue. But, what is very clear today (is that) the intersection has to be opened. And so we are here today as leadership to say we recognize that, we understand that, our community have been professing that and so I am hearing them. We are listening.”

City leaders had previously signaled preparations to re-open the zone after the Chauvin trial amid concerns that the barricade area was endangering local businesses and residences. Officials said in February that as they work with local businesses and residents to maintain some type of memorial in the area for George Floyd, the street needed to be re-opened.

Mayor Jacob Frey told reporters in February that plans were being prepared to create an area for people to remember Floyd, perhaps a “center for racial healing and justice.”

However, the Mayor said the barricade must end:

“This is not an autonomous zone and will not and cannot be an autonomous zone.”

Chief Arradonado said that the violence and crime inside the zone had reached an intolerable level, and specifically mentioned the shooting death of a pregnant female inside the zone as an example:

“We don’t mention her name, we don’t say her name. And that is a tragedy. And that is a shame. We cannot allow groups of individuals to feel that they’re emboldened. They have to be held accountable. Period.”

28-year-old Leneesha Helen Columbus, who was five months pregnant, was shot and killed in July 2020 inside the “autonomous zone.”

AT the press conference, Acting U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk said federal law enforcement would support the city in moving the crime out of the neighborhood:

“These are residents, these are business owners and these are faith leaders who are simply trying to make a living, to raise their families, to build up their community and to uphold this space that to so many has become a sacred memorial. They must be able to do this in peace.”

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