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Minneapolis police say Molotov cocktails thrown at protest, blame ‘anarchists’

A police officer tells a women to back up as she photographs him in front of a north Minneapolis police precinct during a protest in response of Sunday's shooting death of Jamar Clark by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 18, 2015. REUTERS/Craig Lassig 1 / 2
A protester carries a sign as police stand their ground in front of a north Minneapolis police precinct during a protest in response of Sunday's shooting death of Jamar Clark by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 18, 2015. REUTERS/Craig Lassig2 / 2

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minneapolis police chief says anarchists from outside the community are attacking police, using an early Sunday police shooting of an unarmed black man as an excuse to conduct violence.

Meanwhile, protesters demanded federal action, accusing police of abuse.

Chief Janeé Harteau told reporters that Molotov cocktails were thrown at officers and several shots were fired east of the 4th Precinct station, center of protests since the early Sunday police shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark, who died the next day.

While many in North Minneapolis are not happy with police, Harteau blamed outsiders for the most violent actions.

"We believe we are dealing with anarchists..." Harteau said about Wednesday night-Thursday morning activity. "We believe people from outside our community are coming in to promote violence."

Harteau said chemical irritants were sprayed at officers, resulting with one needing medical treatment.

While "most people were peaceful," the chief said about 400 protesters, "hundreds of rocks," bottles, full-size bricks and chunks of materials were thrown at police.

Officers responded by spraying irritants at the throwers, Harteau said.

Thousands of dollars worth of damage was done to cars and other police property, she added.

While Harteau was blaming anarchists for problems, protest organizers said police were abusing them.

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis alleged several cases of police abuse, including using mace on a young woman and a WCCO-TV reporter, pointing weapons at several "peaceful protesters" including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison's son and making "false claims" that protesters sprayed chemicals irritants at them.

Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said that the Minneapolis Police Department cannot fix itself.

"We are also asking for the Minneapolis Police Department to be placed under federal receivership..." she said. "What happened to Jamar Clark was just the tip of the iceberg."

Levy-Pounds alleged that police beat two women protesters and pointed guns at others who were chanting peacefully.

In the meantime, the national NAACP president headed to Minneapolis to deal with the aftermath of the Clark shooting.

Police say Clark, 24, interfered with ambulance personnel trying to treat a person in North Minneapolis early Sunday. All agree that Clark was not armed, but disagree about whether he was handcuffed.

"Cuffs were never on; the suspect was disarming the officer;" Lt. Bob Kroll of the Minneapolis police union said, without going into detail.

Many witnesses from the North Minneapolis community said Clark was handcuffed.

Records indicate Clark has been arrested in the past, but his family said he was setting his life straight and had two jobs.

Police are saying little about the case, which is being investigated by federal and state authorities. 

Since shortly after the Sunday shooting, protesters have camped out around the 4th Precinct, with a tense relationship between them and police.

"Chief (Janeé) Harteau and I are asking officers to exercise maximum restraint, and are asking protesters to act peacefully," Mayor Betsy Hodges said. "I thank the many officers and protesters who are doing just that.”

The major tension point is the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's refusal to release of video from several sources of the shooting incident. BCA officials said that release of the video, which does not show the entire Sunday incident, would "taint" future interviews in the case.

NAACP national President Cornell William Brooks was en route to Minneapolis to lead a late-Friday afternoon rally at the 4th Precinct.

"Our goal is to come to a resolution," NAACP spokeswoman Raquel Coombs said.

Similar situations in which officers killed a young black man, such as in Ferguson, Mo., have resulted in violent and sometimes deadly clashes between police and protesters.

"We don't want it to get to that," Coombs said.

State Rep. Raymond Dehn, D-Minneapolis, was among those standing outside the 4th Precinct station.

"What I’ve seen from those demonstrating at the 4th Precinct has been nothing but peaceful," Dehn said Thursday. "While there may be some bad actors, we must remember that the police have guns and the protesters don’t. Minneapolis is better than what happened last night and must strive to do better."

Black Lives Matter called for a civil rights investigation into "abuses of peaceful protesters."

The group said Clark was shot "execution style."

An activist supporting the Black Lives Matter-backed protests tweeted a photo of one of Ellison’s sons with his hands in the air in front of a police line. It was not immediately clear which of Ellison’s sons is pictured.

A helmeted police officer has a weapon shouldered and pointed in the direction of the crowd, although it does not appear to be pointed directly at Ellison’s son:

"My son is PEACEFULLY protesting w/hands up; officer is shouldering gun. Why?” the congressman tweeted.

St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter David Montgomery contributed to this story. Forum News Service and the Pioneer Press are media partners.