Police, city crews move into Uptown to clear out roadblocks; arrests made | KSTP.com

Police, city crews move into Uptown to clear out roadblocks; arrests made

Police, city crews move into Uptown to clear out roadblocks; arrests made Photo: KSTP/Ben Henry.

Updated: June 16, 2021 10:53 AM
Created: June 15, 2021 12:31 PM

UPDATE: The Minneapolis Police Department reports Wednesday morning that three people were arrested for gross misdemeanor and felony charges Tuesday night. 

Another 27 people were given misdemeanor citations. 

UPDATE: Minneapolis police moved into the area of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue after 8 p.m. Tuesday, and crews started taking down the roadblock protesters had put up earlier in the day.

A 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew saw officers detaining some of the people in the area. The protest was deemed unlawful when demonstrators started blocking the street and putting up makeshift barricades, police said.

City crews were in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis Tuesday afternoon, working to remove makeshift barriers in the area.

Over the past week and a half, protesters have blocked off streets in Uptown and held vigils, rallies and marches to demand justice for Winston Smith, who was shot and killed by members of a federal fugitive task force on June 3.

Monday night, demonstrators put up makeshift barriers of mattresses, fences, street signs and pallets to close off Lake Street for a memorial for Deona Knajdek, a protester who was killed after a driver crashed into her on Sunday night. The driver who was arrested in connection with her death has been identified as 35-year-old Nicholas D. Kraus.

KSTP's Alex Jokich reported from the scene Tuesday that Public Works crews were working along Lake Street to remove the barriers. Shortly after, a group of protesters gathered in the area and began blocking off the street again.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said he wants to protect peoples' right to First Amendment speech but that public safety also has to be a focus when one of the city's major commercial corridors is illegally blocked off.

"Deescalation has been a focus, but we need to acknowledge that the atmosphere has changed in the past few days," he said.

Frey went on to say that any action "beyond a peaceful protest" near Lake Street and Girard Avenue could result in police issuing a dispersal order and that anyone who remains in the area risks being arrested.

When asked how the situation on Lake Street compares with that of George Floyd Square at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, Frey said the barriers on Lake Street pose a bigger safety threat because of how busy the area is and because there are no clear markers for where people can drivers can go.

Frey did not give any specifics on a plan for preventing people from putting up barricades once crews take them down. 

Katie Blackwell, the inspector for the Minneapolis Police Department's Fifth Precinct, did say that officers were monitoring the intersection and were prepared to respond if the situation goes awry.

She said police officers have been trying to take an approach of deescalation when dealing with protesters over the past couple of weeks, but it has gotten to a point where residents and businesses in the area are having trouble going about their lives. 

"Now it's time to start kind of moving this along because people are taking over the intersection, and it's just so unsafe," she said.

City Council President Lisa Bender, one of the staunchest advocates for reshaping Minneapolis' approach to policing, said that relying solely on police to support safety after law enforcement harms or kills someone "puts everyone, including law enforcement, in an impossible situation."

However, Bender conceded that the vast majority of the city's public safety budget is tied up in the Minneapolis Police Department, so Minneapolis has to work with the resources it has.

Frey emphasized that he supports continued calls for transparency from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating Smith's death, and the U.S. Marshals Service, which oversees the task force involved in the shooting. 

"The situation is confusing, but my message is clear: We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can allow for a peaceful protest, we can demand accountability and transparency, we can memorialize those who have lost their lives," he said. "And simultaneously, we can prevent an unauthorized closure or occupation of a street in one of our major commercial hubs. Both of those things can and need to happen at the same time."

Watch Frey's full news conference with Bender and Blackwell here:

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