Protesters demanding justice for a black man fatally shot by Minneapolis police were settling in for their ninth night of demonstrations when something just didn’t seem right.
Lingering in the crowd were four people who seemed out of place. They were asked to leave. Moments later, shots rang out about a block away.
“I really did think it was like firecrackers or something initially because it was so loud and there was like this acrid smell,” protester Jie Wronski-Riley said. “I thought, surely, they are not shooting at us.”
Then Wronski-Riley heard the cries of wounded on the ground. “I really understood the danger we were in and what had happened.”
Police say five people were shot late Monday near a police precinct where dozens of protesters have been camped out since the Nov. 15 fatal shooting of Jamar Clark. None suffered life-threatening wounds.
Authorities arrested a 23-year-old white man, who remained in custody Tuesday evening, and a 32-year-old Latino man, who was later released. Two more men — both white, ages 26 and 21 — turned themselves in Tuesday.
Police say Clark, 24, was shot after struggling with officers. But some people who said they saw the shooting said he was handcuffed at the time.
Hennepin County Atty. Mike Freeman said a grand jury would decide whether to bring charges against officers in Clark’s death.
At least one member of Clark’s family asked Tuesday for the protests to end. But demonstrators persisted, saying they would not be intimidated by authorities or “bow to fear.”
It was not immediately clear who was behind Monday’s attack, but several racially disparaging comments related to the Minneapolis protests had been posted on social media in recent days. One video showed a white man brandishing a gun while claiming to be on his way to confront demonstrators. Police issued a warning Friday night, asking protesters to be vigilant and report any suspicious behavior.
A security team has been in place at the demonstrations, and its members have been asking anyone who looked suspicious to leave.
Fourteen people whom protesters believed to be white supremacists were kicked out of the area one night, said Mica Grimm, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. She said they came in with their faces covered and filmed the crowd but would not talk to people. Some made racist comments.
Grimm said protesters had been threatened by one group online and had told police, but thought the threats were not being taken seriously.
The situation escalated Monday night when members of the security team approached three men and one woman who were standing under a “Justice4Jamar” sign and asked them what they were doing.
“We’re here for Jamar,” one said, according to Henry Habu, who has been providing security.
Habu said he and others tried to escort the four away from the protest when they took off running. He and the others said at least three members of the group were wearing masks that covered the lower half of their faces.
Alexander Dewan Apprentice Clark, who said he chased the attackers, said one of the men fell, and when Clark helped him up, he felt what he believed to be a bulletproof vest under the man’s clothing.
Wronski-Riley, who is also on the security team, said most of the crowd stopped following the men about midway up the street, but a few protesters gave chase. Wronski-Riley and a friend followed to make sure everyone came back safely. After running about another half a block, the suspects started shooting, he said.
“It was so busy and chaotic,” Wronski-Riley said.
Wesley Martin was among those shot. A day later, he was back at the scene, walking with a cane after being treated at a hospital for a wounded left leg.
He said his 19-year-old brother, Tevin, was shot in the stomach and was in intensive care but was expected to recover.
Asked why he returned, Martin said, “Bullets aren’t going to stop me from supporting what I want to do anyway.”