A violent brawl reportedly broke out between activists and the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) this morning as they tried to clear out an encampment of housed people, and video of the incident allegedly shows an MPD officer kneeling on a demonstrator’s neck—the same, now-banned maneuver former MPD officer Derek Chauvin used on George Floyd. Mr Chauvin’s murder trial is ongoing in Minneapolis.
MNUPRISING, a local activist group, shared video of the incident, where an officer at the center of the frame near a stop sign appears to kneel on an individual’s neck in the final seconds of the clip.
“We are asking cops to stop brutalizing our community,” John Brown, from MNUPRISING, told The Independent. “They say these are public safety officials, peace keepers, and protectors but all they do is kill and terrify. We showed up to defend our comrades’ homes from state sanctioned violence and we’ll do it again.”
Local activists alleged the officer who knelt on someone’s neck is named Toua Yang. The Independent has reached out to the Minneapolis Police Department and mayor’s office to confirm the details of this breaking news story, including whether officer Yang was present and violently detained anyone.
“From the limited video that I have seen, I was appalled by the actions of those community members that attacked my officers,” Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo said at a news conference on Thursday. “I am thankful that they were not seriously injured.”
The clash reportedly began when, according to witnesses, about a dozen police cars arrived early in the morning to clear out an encampment of about 20 unhoused people in the Near North section of Minneapolis, many of whom are Black and indigenous, and were met with more than 100 people who rallied at the site to stop them.
“There were no vans coming to help people relocate, this was a police force coming to move people inhumanely,” Mandla Xaba, a resident at the encampment, told KARE 11.
Benjamin Melançon, who volunteers at the encampment, which sprung up this fall after a number of unhoused people were evicted from Minneapolis parks, told the Minneapolis StarTribune he saw an officer accelerate aggressively toward a line of protesters before stopping at the last moment.
“It’s just mind boggling that just because they have this mechanism of violence at their disposal, they think it’s okay to force people to move,” he said. “No one here is asking for much, literally just a piece of land that they won’t be pushed off of.”
Police also reportedly used pepper spray on individuals at the scene.
According to a statement from the Minneapolis Police Department, 5 officers initially arrived at the scene, and said individuals who were there began to taunt them and throw snow balls, before becoming “increasingly aggressive,” including pushing against a police cordon and one individual allegedly attacking an officer. Another woman, who was later arrested, allegedly “jumped on the back of an officer and began to choke him,” according to the MPD.
Seeing they were “outnumbered,” the MPD says they called for backup, and the situation continued to escalate, with one officer allegedly being punched in the face and another tackled from behind, the statement continues.
All told, five people were arrested, and five officers were injured before being cleared to go back on duty.
“The Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit is reviewing the use force as is customary in use of force incidents,” the statement concludes.
The MPD did not answer specific questions from The Independent about whether an officer knelt on someone’s neck.
On Wednesday night, Near North residents said they’d only been given two days notice from the city and were about to get evicted and had no alternative place to go.
The city’s department of community planning and economic development told the StarTribune that the site needed to be closed due to health and safety risks, and that there’s currently enough shelter capacity for everyone who lives there.
The Near North encampment, which remained intact despite the attempt to clear it, the city’s third so far, expressed their gratitude to community members who showed up to support them.
“Massive thanks to all of our comrades who showed up and physically prevented the police from destroying peoples possessions and tearing apart the community that has flourished here,” they wrote in a tweet on Thursday.
Since its creation, a network of local activists and mutual aid groups have worked to sustain the site.
Video of the incident spread quickly on social media in the Twin Cities and beyond, and drew condemnation from Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
“Today MPD woke up and chose to brutalize innocent people for defending the Near North houseless encampment in Minneapolis,” she wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
Last summer, following widespread outrage over Mr Floyd’s death, Minneapolis police agreed to stop using chokeholds and neck restraints as part of a deal between the city and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
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