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Protesters clash with police in downtown Minneapolis, mayor summons National Guard

By Jess Sundin |
August 27, 2020
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Police, sheriffs attack protesters in downtown Minneapolis.
Police, sheriffs attack protesters in downtown Minneapolis. (Photo by Brad Sigal)

Minneapolis, MN - Three months after the murder of George Floyd, and days after the cowardly shooting of Jacob Blake in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the simmering anger in Minneapolis boiled over last night, Wednesday, August 26, after dozens of people witnessed what they believed was another police murder of a Black man.

In the early evening, word spread across social media that police had shot and killed a Black man on a crowded street here. Members of Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar were on the other side of downtown, at a memorial march for Lionel “Twan” Lewis who had been killed by police years ago in Hibbing, Minnesota. Some of them mobilized to the intersection of 8th Street and Nicollet Avenue, where police tape and dozens of Minneapolis Police Department officers and squads held back people who were upset about what had just occurred there.

Activists spoke with several witnesses. One young woman, appearing in a livestream, said, “I was sitting down right there… I see a whole bunch of police officers getting out of their car [shouting] ‘Get on the ground! Get on the ground! Put your hands up! Put your hands up!’” She described how, from her perspective, it had appeared officers shot him, before he landed at her feet.

Other witnesses described a similar sequence of events.

For their part, police claimed the man died by his own hand. They showed a video (there were many surveillance cameras in the area) to a handful of community leaders, who came to the scene to try and calm the angry crowd. The Minneapolis Police Department posted a video of the death on Twitter last night but have since taken it down. Many who viewed the video agree it was suicide, but for the people on that street last night, it was already too much. They saw police run up on a Black man, guns drawn. As they were backing or running away, they heard a gunshot. Looking back, they saw the man on the ground, with a gunshot to his head.

After seeing so many other police murders go unpunished, and seeing no serious efforts to address police violence, despite international outcry, and months of steady protests and organizing, the crowd was not calmed by reports that this may not have been a police murder, that their own eyes were lying to them. Instead, they rallied.

And their righteous anger was greeted with hostility and aggression by police. The crowd had moved up the block to the Target store, and soon, the police attacked with pepper spray. After that, the first windows were broken. Police continued to escalate, and the people responded in kind. Before the night was over, a curfew was imposed and the National Guard was mobilized, alongside MPD officers, county sheriff’s deputies and the Minnesota State Patrol. Defying the curfew, people stayed on the streets, smashing windows, emptying shelves and setting fires at a couple dozen buildings, most of them in the downtown shopping district. More than 130 were arrested. Another curfew has been set for Thursday, August 27.

Protests and other organizing efforts are ongoing, including the fight for community control of the police.