“This is what you guys wanted,” police told protesters after five demonstrators were shot and injured by masked men at a continuing protest in Minneapolis on Monday night, witnesses told the Guardian.
Protesters trying to tend to the wounded were also maced.
Anger continued to grow against the police on Tuesday at a march and concert held outside the fourth precinct police station, where protesters have been occupying the space since a young black man, Jamar Clark, was killed by police a week ago.
For the second night in a row, gunfire was heard near the protest in the early hours of Wednesday morning. This time, no injuries were reported.
On Monday night, a group of three or four masked men, who had been escorted from the protest by volunteer marshals, opened fire on protesters, injuring five.
The attackers, dressed in dark clothes and wearing masks, had been at the protest hassling people on Monday evening, according to witnesses, who also said they heard them use racial slurs. “There were these guys who looked suspicious,” Wesley Martin said.
Martin and several others had been outside the fourth precinct police station since Clark was shot a few hundred yards down the road. Police said the killing happened after Clark struggled with officers. But some people who said they saw the shooting said the 24-year-old was handcuffed. A week of protests followed his death, including one which shut down Interstate 94 and saw 51 people arrested.
Martin and Devante Taylor, who had both returned to the protest Tuesday night for a march to city hall, told the Guardian that they and several other people chased the masked men away from the tented encampment outside the precinct building and up to Morgan Avenue, a couple of blocks away.
There, at least one of the masked men opened fire. Martin said he saw one gun but did not have time to see if any of the others were also firing. Martin was hit in the leg; his brother, he said, was shot in the stomach. The man with the gun had taken his mask off, another witness, Jie Wronski-Riley, said. He was white, with “a ginger beard.”
Having shot five people, the attackers escaped in what looked like a black Toyota SUV, according to Nimo Omar, who was also at the protest.
After the shots, everything was “very chaotic”, Omar said. Several people, including Sumaya Moallin and Oluchi Omeoga, ran back to the precinct to ask the police for help.
Moallin said they needed a squad car and an ambulance. “He looked at me and he said: ‘Call 911,’” she told the Guardian. “I said: ‘I thought you were 911.’ Then he looked at me directly and said: ‘This is what you guys wanted.’”
“Six [officers] were outside [the precinct building],” she continued. “They all just shuffled back into the door. They were not making eye contact … I pleaded a good amount of time.”
She said she felt “like I had the wind knocked out of me. We’re here to protest against what they’re doing wrong; we don’t not want cops, we just want them to serve and protect. I fell to the ground and started crying.”
Two of those shot – Martin and his brother – were lying on the ground. The other three victims were helped into cars by Wronski-Riley and some others, and driven to hospital. A couple of police officers approached the scene first, Omar said, one with a drawn sniper rifle. They were yelling for everybody to get back.
Rachel Bean, who had been a little way back when the shooting occurred and hid behind a tree, said that she was one of the first to Martin’s brother, who was bleeding heavily from his stomach. She has first-aid training, and attempted to stem the flow of blood with some shirts. She was also on the phone with paramedics.
A “chaotic” 15 or 20 minutes passed, Bean said, with the crowd’s anger at the police’s refusal to offer aid growing. “I felt powerless,” Omeoga said. “But the whole reason me and Jie [Wronski-Riley] were chasing around was to de-escalate.” Another witness, Moallin, said that it was more like 10 minutes.
Then the police arrived at the scene in force, in full riot gear. Bean was still tending to Martin’s brother’s stomach wound when they released mace into people’s faces, she told the Guardian. “I said, ‘I called the EMS, you don’t have to mace everyone’,” she said. “The officer said ‘fuck you’ or ‘shut the fuck up’ or something like that.”
She said that attitude was representative of the behavior of other officers she interacted with after the attack. “The idea that you would mace a group of people that just had bullets fired at them – that’s the opposite of responsible.”
The Minneapolis police department did not respond to a request from the Guardian for comment.
In statements, the department said that three people had been arrested in connection with the shooting, one of whom has since been released. The other two, both white males in their 20s, turned themselves in.
On Tuesday evening, the NAACP held a concert for Clark outside the precinct building. People here wanted to show that last night’s shooting of five protesters by alleged white supremacists did not scare them, Black Lives Matter organizer Kandace Montgomery said.
A stage was set up by the NAACP; singers made lyrics from the now-famous refrains of the movement: “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “no justice, no peace.” There was dancing and cheering among a crowd of three or four hundred.
Fire pits and heat lamps had been set up, and from the tented encampment people handed out food – pizza, spaghetti, and fried chicken – to the crowd.
US representative Keith Ellison was among those gathered Tuesday night outside the fourth precinct. Ellison said the mood was good, given the attack a day earlier, but said he still had safety concerns.
“The Jamar Clark family has urged us to start thinking about an exit strategy, and I think that would be wise,” he told the Associated Press. Ellison’s office early on Tuesday issued a statement on behalf of the Clark family after the shootings, calling for an end to the protests for safety’s sake, a request that organizers quickly rejected.
Downtown, a march of several hundred more people marched to city hall.
Martin, using a cane, walked on the march and then returned to the precinct concert. His brother was still in intensive care, though he and the other victims are expected to recover.
By 10 p.m. the stage had been dismantled, and a creeping, brittle edge had entered the atmosphere among the hundred or so protesters who remained. The march, and the event, had been planned before Monday’s attack, and with the business of the day people had not had the chance to deal with the trauma of the previous night.
Earlier, a picture had circulated of apparent death threats against the protesters, made on a private white supremacist section of Reddit.
The sound of gunfire was heard at around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, the second night in a row. Bean said she heard five shots that were relatively distant, and then one closer at hand. The origin of the gunshots is unknown.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.