Minneapolis Mayor Calls for End to Black Lives Matter Police Station Encampment

Members of the Black Lives Matter movement march to city hall during a protest in Minneapolis on November 24. Craig Lassig/Reuters

Minneapolis's mayor on Monday called for protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement to end their 16-day encampment of a city police station, which has been occupied since Jamar Clark was killed by a police officer earlier this month.

Clark, a 24-year-old African-American man, was shot by police on November 15 and died the following day. Hours after his death, protesters marched from the site of the shooting to north Minneapolis's 4th Precinct police station, which they have refused to leave until authorities release video of the shooting.

"The occupation of the 4th Precinct is unsafe for everyone," Mayor Betsy Hodges said Monday at a press conference, adding that she hasn't set a deadline to force out the protesters from the station, but said she hopes they leave voluntarily. "I am still willing to talk with any of the protesters willing to come to the table," she added.

Local officials said residents have voiced their concerns about the dangers and inconveniences posed by the protesters as they block streets and burn wood to keep warm. Over the weekend, fire officials met with demonstrators to discuss safety and health concerns about the smoke from the fires.

City leaders and public safety officials said they approve of the protesters using their First Amendment rights, but only if they do so lawfully. They said that many of the protesters' demands have been met.

Steve Belton, interim president and chief executive officer of the Minneapolis Urban League, told demonstrators that leaders will stand beside them as they continue to draw attention to police misconduct and racial injustices. But for now, he added, they must be satisfied.

"Take 'yes' as an answer," he said. "We're asking that you respect the community and the people that you have said you are here to serve."

Demonstrators were initially upset that officials didn't immediately release Clark's identity or condition. They also asked the police department to fire and prosecute the officers responsible for the shooting, and release the video from the incident. They also called for a federal investigation. Police since have released the names of the two officers and, following demands by Hodges and activists, the FBI agreed to conduct a criminal civil rights investigation into the shooting. At the request of the Minneapolis Police Department, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension also is reviewing the incident.

Officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, who both served for seven years, have been placed on standard paid administrative leave during the ongoing investigations.

U.S. Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, whose district includes north Minneapolis, said the demonstrators have a worthy goal in calling for justice for Clark, but they are causing trouble and asked them to avoid harming other people.

"The byproduct of that goal are having very negative impacts on people in the neighborhood," he said at the press conference. "My plea is to minimize the impact—the negative impact—on the neighbors."

Clark's family has asked for peace in memory of their son.

Questions remain about whether Clark was handcuffed when he was shot. Authorities haven't released video from the scene of the shooting, saying they don't have footage that captures the event in its entirety. Belton on Monday said police releasing footage while investigations are ongoing would violate the law.

Reverend Alfred Babington-Johnson asked demonstrators to relocate from the 4th Precinct to open spaces nearby to conduct peaceful protests.

A week ago, five demonstrators were shot and wounded near the 4th Precinct. Four men were arrested in connection to the shooting. On Monday, charges were filed against the alleged suspects. Allen Scarsella III, 23, was charged with one count of second-degree riot while armed and five counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, according to the Star Tribune. The other three men, Nathan Gustavsson, 21, Daniel Macey, 26, and Joseph M. Backman, 27, were charged with the same riot count as Scarsella.

Authorities are considering whether to treat the shooting as a hate crime. The four suspects are expected to appear in court on Tuesday afternoon.