Officers using bulldozers and other heavy machinery tore down an encampment early Thursday outside a Minneapolis police precinct where demonstrators have gathered for more than two weeks to protest the fatal shooting of a black man by police.
Officers told about 50 chanting demonstrators camped outside the Fourth Precinct to disperse about 4 a.m. and began removing tents about 15 minutes later. City dump trucks carried away tents and supplies.
Demonstrators headed by the local Black Lives Matter group had gathered at the site since the Nov. 16 death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark following a confrontation with police a day earlier.
Eight people were arrested during the eviction, Police Chief Janee Harteau said at a news conference. Seven of them were arrested for obstructing the legal process and one person was arrested for trespassing, she said.
"I do want to make notice to future protests that we will continue to support and facilitate your 1st Amendment rights and freedom of speech. But we will also support and enforce the ordinances of the City of Minneapolis and the laws of the state of Minnesota," Harteau said.
After tents were removed, campfires were extinguished and demonstrators were evicted, police and public works crews sent in a convoy of heavy equipment to set concrete barriers in front of the precinct station, along with a steel fence on top.
Several precinct neighbors, speaking at a City Council safety committee meeting Wednesday, expressed concern about noise, vandalism and blocked streets connected to the protest.
Patricia Anderson said her daughter's car window had been smashed, bricks had been taken from a wall on her property and she was having trouble sleeping. She said she wanted the protesters to leave.
Police said that on Nov. 15, they were responding to an assault call in which Clark was a suspect and arrived to find Clark interfering with paramedics who were trying to treat the victim. A scuffle followed and Clark was shot, police said.
Some community members have alleged Clark was handcuffed when he was shot, but police dispute this. State and federal investigations are under way.