“GET OUT”: Police, rioters battle in Twin Cities for third straight night

The resignations of the officer who shot Daunte Wright and the Brooklyn Center police chief did nothing to mollify the mob that surrounded the police building for a third straight night. After a peaceful protest rally in the afternoon, the crowds formed at the city’s building, which has now been surrounded by wire fencing and patrolled by the National Guard. As night fell, the crowd began attacking the fenceand police moved in:

After the rally, as night fell, an estimated 800 to 1,000 protesters remained outside the station. Dozens of police officers in riot gear, along with National Guard members, stood on the other side of a large metal fence erected around the perimeter of the station earlier this week. Some National Guard members were stationed on the roof of the building.

As members of the crowd shouted and shook the fence, police began deploying flash-bang grenades. Protesters responded by throwing objects such as water bottles back, striking some officers on their helmets.

The Minnesota State Patrol declared the group unlawful around 8:30 p.m. Scores of troopers moved toward the crowd, firing riot gas, projectiles and more flash-bangs.

Minnesota state troopers took command in the street, immediately deploying crowd-control strategies to get the crowd to disperse. This demonstrates a learning curve from last year, when law enforcement and the state acted far too slowly to establish its authority and lost control within minutes:

Minnesota law enforcement isn’t fooling around with these rioters any longer. The imposition of curfews across large portions of the Twin Cities would have given them the pretext to clear the streets anyway at 10 pm last night, but the attack on the fence made that a moot point. So far the state hasn’t used the “kettling” technique to trap large numbers of rioters, but that might be coming next if these violent actions continue.

Just how violent was it? The police made sure to show just how prepared the crowd was for action last night:

At a midnight news conference, the multiagency security force Operation Safety Net, displayed bricks, cans, bottles of alcohol and other items that were thrown at officers Tuesday night.

“The intent of hurting others is just unacceptable and needs to stop,” said State Patrol Chief Matt Langer. He said “upward” of 60 people were arrested Tuesday night for riot and other criminal behaviors.

Sixty arrests are pretty impressive for this kind of operation. If police and prosecutors hold them for a few days, especially if they catch the ringleaders, it might take some of the momentum out of the rioting. The relatively muscular approach to looters seems to have paid off; there were no reports of looting last night, according to police in their midnight presser.

As Jazz noted earlier, perhaps kettling won’t be necessary anyway. The Washington County DA told reporters yesterday that he expects to file charges against former officer Kimberly Potter as soon as today:

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said Tuesday that he’s spent hours reviewing video and other evidence of the shooting and expects to file something — he didn’t clarify what the charges would be — by Wednesday.

“We’ve already done a great deal of research,” Orput said, adding that prosecutor Imran Ali has been working on the case as well.

It would be just the second time that a U.S. police officer faces criminal charges for fatally shooting someone with a service weapon in an apparent mix-up with their Taser.

Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a jury trial and sentenced to two years in prison for the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant III. Mehserle’s attorney argued that his client meant to use a Taser when he fired one bullet into Grant’s back. The case was dramatized in the 2013 movie “Fruitville Station.”

Is this a rush to judgment to appease a mob? Perhaps, although former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy wrote earlier that the video pretty much speaks for itself. Wright did not appear to present a lethal threat to officers at the moment he was shot, which means police did not have a reason to use lethal force against him.  Potter’s negligence in pulling the wrong weapon would not be a defense against criminal liability — although it would certainly impact which charges a prosecutor might bring. Potter may well have an apt defense against any charges, but charges in this case don’t seem unreasonable, at least in theory — even if those also seem like an appeasement strategy.

Even if it’s appeasement, though, it may not work right away. We here in the Twin Cities can expect more curfews over the coming days, and more violence as well.

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