Minnesota mayor blasts police tactics to control protesters

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Demonstrators march south past perimeter security gates during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. – Elected leaders in the Minneapolis suburb where a police officer fatally shot Daunte Wright want officers to scale back their tactics amid nightly protests, leaving some law enforcement called in to assist asking whether the city still wants their help.

Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered outside the heavily guarded Brooklyn Center police station every night since former Officer Kim Potter, who is white, shot the 20-year-old Black motorist during a traffic stop on Sunday. Protesters have shouted profanities, launched fireworks, shaken security fences surrounding the building and lobbed water bottles at officers. Police have driven away protesters with tear gas grenades, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and long lines of riot police.

On Friday night, officers fired irritants into a crowd of several hundred after part of an outer fence was opened. Demonstrators dissipated shortly after 10 p.m. when officers quickly advanced. Flash bangs and sponge grenades were fired into the crowd, and several protesters who neared a group of officers were pepper sprayed. Some demonstrators scrambled through yards and over backyard fences to evade a perimeter authorities set up for a block around the police department.

People who live in the area have said many neighbors 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.”

The tactics have not sat well with Brooklyn Center city officials, who passed a resolution Monday banning the city’s officers from using tear gas and other chemicals, chokeholds, and police lines to arrest demonstrators.

Mayor Mike Elliott, who is Black, said at a news conference Wednesday that “gassing is not a human way of policing” and he didn’t agree with police using pepper spray, tear gas and paintballs against demonstrators. Elliott didn’t respond to multiple messages from the Associated Press earlier Friday.

But Brooklyn Center police aren’t dealing with protesters on their own. Other agencies, including the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department and the Minnesota National Guard, have provided support at the city’s request in a joint effort dubbed Operation Safety Net. The city’s resolution isn’t binding on those agencies.