Attempt to clear out Minneapolis encampment leads to brawl with police, 5 arrested

Five people were arrested and five police officers were injured after a clash near an encampment in Minneapolis’ Harrison neighborhood that the city was attempting to clear out Thursday morning. 

At 6:45 a.m., five officers were called to assist outreach workers and members of the city's community planning and economic development department at an encampment near Second Avenue North and Girard Avenue North, which was being closed by the city "due to site contamination, fire hazards and other health and safety risks," according to the Minneapolis Police Department. Residents of the encampment had been given notice earlier in the week to clear out. 

Officers were beginning to string tape to cordon off the area when they saw three men down the block and saw that dumpsters had been pushed into the road. The three men approached the officers and "began to swear at them and taunt them," according to MPD spokesperson John Elder. Others came out of a nearby home and joined in. 

Police said the people tore down the tape officers had put up and began to throw snowballs at the officers and the three squad cars on the scene. Officers called for additional squads to respond to the encampment because the group was getting "increasingly aggressive" and the officers were outnumbered.  

Police estimated that by the time the additional squads arrived on scene, 25 to 30 people were "actively challenging officers and pushing against their line."

People began walking around the squad cars and one person physically attacked one of the officers, according to police. 

People surrounded the officers as they attempted to arrest the suspect who attacked the officer. A woman, who was later arrested, jumped on the back of an officer and began to choke him, Elder said. 

More people came and surrounded the officers, prompting them to put out a call to all precincts for help. More officers arrived and attempted to push people back. An officer was tackled from behind and other was punched in the face, according to Elder. 

Officers began to make arrests of people who were physically resisting. Five people were arrested in all.

A video shared online shows part of the physical confrontation between officers and a group of individuals dressed in black. In the clip, an officer is seen shoving an individual to the ground while a group of officers try to pull another man off a police officer who had been knocked to the ground.

Police say five officers suffered injuries, but were cleared by paramedics to return to duty.

"I am thankful they were not seriously injured," said Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. "When I see video of individuals on top of my officers assaulting them and some were arrested, they should be. They should be held accountable for that." 

It is unclear if any actual residents of the encampment were even part of the chaos. A spokesperson told FOX 9 he does not even blame police, he is frustrated with how the city handled the situation. He wants the focus to be on the residents who need a place to stay.

The police department’s Internal Affairs Unit is reviewing the officers’ use of force in this incident, Elder said.

"This is not about people trying to attack the police. This is about the police being used illegitimately," Mandla Xaba said. 

At last check, there were about twenty residents still living in the encampment—with no plans to leave.