Around 100 people arrested in Brooklyn Center as clashes between police and protesters intensify

·3 min read
 Demonstrators rally outside the Brooklyn Center police headquarters - Stephen Maturen /Getty
Demonstrators rally outside the Brooklyn Center police headquarters - Stephen Maturen /Getty

Around 100 people were arrested in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota on Friday night as clashes between police reform activists and law enforcement escalated following days of unrest.

Hundreds gathered outside the police station, as they have done each night since a white police officer shot and killed a 20-year-old black man during a traffic stop last Sunday.

The demonstrations have gone late into the night, despite an evening curfew, leading to clashes, with some protesters throwing water bottles and tins of soup towards the police line and law enforcement firing tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse the crowd.

City officials had attempted a different approach on Friday night, choosing not to invoke a curfew in the hope of calming tensions and helping struggling businesses.

However the Brooklyn Center Police station saw some of the largest crowds yet and the mostly peaceful protests gave way to unrest after 9.30pm.

Law enforcement officers push up to a gate outside the Brooklyn Center police headquarter - Stephen Maturen /Getty
Law enforcement officers push up to a gate outside the Brooklyn Center police headquarter - Stephen Maturen /Getty

With part of the fencing around the police precinct breached, officials ordered the protesters to leave the area and began deploying flash-bang grenades and making arrests.

An emergency curfew was also imposed in the city from 11pm.

Around 100 people were taken into custody on Friday night in connection with the protests, local officials said during a midnight news conference.

John Harrington, the public safety commissioner, said police had been under siege from a handful of protesters clutching baseball bats and "liquid products".

Mr Harrington said law enforcement had attempted to diffuse tensions but had no alternative but to take action when projectiles were lobbed towards them.

Earlier in the week, Brooklyn Center's black mayor, Mike Elliott, suggested officers should scale back their heavy-handed approach, saying he did not agree with police using pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators.

During Friday night's protest, some in the crowd shouted profanities, launched fireworks and attempted to scale a security fence surrounding the Brooklyn Center Police headquarters.

Police clad in riot-gear drove away protesters with tear gas grenades, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, with some officers using pepper spray on those who neared a group of officers.

Protesters scrambled over fences and backyards to escape a makeshift perimeter law enforcement set up around the building.

People who live in the area say many of their neighbours are staying in hotels or with relatives to avoid the noise as well as the tear gas that seeps into their homes.

"We can't just have our window open any more without thinking about if there's going to be some gas coming in," said 16-year-old Xzavion Martin, adding that rubber bullets and other projectiles have landed on his apartment's second-story balcony. "There's kids in this building that are really scared to come back."

Tensions in the region were already high with the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white former officer charged with killing George Floyd, taking place just 10 miles away, and were further inflamed by the shooting of Daunte Wright on Sunday.

Death by police: US fatalities, in pictures
Death by police: US fatalities, in pictures

Protests have also taken place in Chicago, after the city released graphic footage of police fatally shooting 13-year-old Adam Toledo in March.

Back in Minnesota, a group of liberal-leaning local elected officials - Local Progress Minnesota - have said the events of the last few nights have underscored the need for police to cease using tear gas.

"The last few nights have been marred with unconscionable acts of oppression," the group said in a letter. "This is not how we build a safer place for one another."

However the state's governor, Tim Walz, told reporters that protesters might have burned down the police station and other buildings if police had not intervened - a lesson he says he learned after a Minneapolis police station burned during protests over Mr Floyd's death last summer. Those demonstrations damaged more than 1,000 buildings across the Twin Cities area.

"I trust our safety officials to be very judicious and think about this," he said.

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