Minneapolis Police Aggressively Enforces Curfew Against Protesters

A rubber bullet is fired over a protester by police hidden by a cloud of tear gas Saturday in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — A zealously enforced curfew in Minneapolis and St. Paul kept property damage to a minimum Saturday night, but arrests and injuries to medics, journalists and citizens obeying the curfew left many local officials saying police and the military personnel called in to support them had gone too far.

Protests and cleanup efforts continued throughout the day as the cities reeled from the death of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department and the four days of protests, smashed windows and fires that followed.

Both cities enacted 8 p.m. curfews on Friday and Saturday, and city and state officials spent both days beseeching residents to stay home. To drive home the point, the National Guard increased its presence, with Friday’s 700-strong force rising nearly five times over to 4,100.

Early in the evening, the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association warned that the Guard would be using live ammunition – a warning that went viral and set many on edge, but appeared not to be true as the night went on.

The night’s largest organized protest met its first police confrontation while marching across the Lake Street bridge toward St. Paul, Minneapolis’ eastern neighbor across the Mississippi River. St. Paul Police reported dispersing about 1,000 protesters from the area with rubber bullets and tear gas.

Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said Sunday that preliminary data showed a total of 55 arrests in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, which include Minneapolis and St. Paul respectively, by 2 a.m. Sunday. In the hours between 2 a.m. and the curfew’s end at 6 a.m., he said, as many as 40 or 50 more arrests had been made.

At least two reports of gunshots resulted in arrests. One incident was called in as a white supremacist, MPD reported, but they were unable to confirm that motive for any of the four people arrested, who had nearly rammed officers. Another gunman shot at officers before being arrested without any return gunfire, the police reported. An AR-15 was seized in that confrontation, Harrington said.

Police in St. Paul also reported stopping cars without license plates only for the drivers to flee on foot, “leaving vehicles and tools used to wreak havoc on our city behind.”

The report followed earlier assertions by St. Paul mayor Melvin Carter and Walz that a majority of the destruction in the Twin Cities was caused by out-of-staters looking for trouble.

Both backed down somewhat on those claims Sunday, but still stressed that “bad actors” from outside the Cities had been major players in the riots. Harrington said that about 20% of those arrested over the course of four nights of protests were from out of state, reversing Friday night’s estimate of 80%.

Overall, that trouble stayed mild in comparison to previous nights. Minneapolis police responded to only one fire in progress at a shopping mall and one group of unsuccessful would-be arsonists. Cars could be seen burning on live streams, but with far less frequency than earlier in the week. And across the cities, citizens organized volunteer fire brigades and squads to protect homes, businesses and nonprofits, with some facing down police in order to stay out and keep watch.

Limited damage and less-lethal rounds didn’t prevent police from interfering with media coverage. Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Ryan Faircloth posted that police and the National Guard had hit his car with a marker round, shattering his passenger side window and injuring him with the broken glass.

Photojournalist Tom Aviles with CBS radio and television affiliate WCCO was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet and then arrested by the State Patrol, who threw him to the ground even after he repeatedly told them he was with the network. Aviles was released shortly afterward.

Local media were not the only ones impacted. Vice correspondent Michael Adams said that holding up press passes was not enough to stop officers from firing foam rounds at him and a group of protesters, with one training a rifle on the group.

Adams had a difficult night; an hour later, police shoved him to the ground, acknowledged his press pass, and then pepper sprayed his face as he lay on the ground per their orders.

Police and the Guard fired on MSNBC’s Ali Veshi and his crew with rubber bullets and tear gas as he reported on Lake Street shortly after curfew started. Two Reuters TV crew members were also hit by rubber bullets despite their press passes, according to the outlet.

Corrections commissioner Paul Schnell gave a press briefing early Sunday morning where he praised community support for the curfew but expressed regret for the injuries to journalists.

Reporters have been frequent targets for police violence during the riots, starting on Wednesday when Star Tribune reporter Andy Mannix was shot with a rubber bullet and escalating on Friday, when police briefly arrested a CNN crew and permanently blinded freelancer Linda Tardao in one eye with a tracer, a type of potentially lethal ammunition which leaves a fiery trail to mark targets.

Curfew-abiding civilians were also targeted. Reports spilled in of residents being tear-gassed, fired on with less-lethal rounds, and arrested for standing in their own yards – legal under the curfew. In one video, police could be heard yelling “light ‘em up” before firing paint at a woman on her front porch with what she believed to be paint canisters early in the evening.

Across the cities, elected officials decried the police violence and expressed skepticism of Governor Tim Walz’ “goodness and righteousness” claim of law enforcement tactics.

“Tactics like this contribute to continued unrest,” Minneapolis city council member Jeremiah Ellison wrote in a tweet responding to the porch-shooting video. “What’s the goal? Peace or submission? I thought it was peace.”

Asked about the porch-sitters at a Sunday morning press conference, Walz and State Patrol chief Col. Matthew Langer defended the tactics.

“These aren’t particularly pretty actions that we take,” Langer said, “but it was necessary.”

Walz also claimed that “people picked up the guns pretending to be reporters,” but called attacks on reporters “unacceptable.”

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