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Minneapolis Protesters Keep Up Pressure After Black Man Is Killed By Police


Now, Justice Department lawyers are in Minneapolis today conducting a civil rights investigation into the police killing of a young African-American man. As Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio reports, police and Black Lives Matter protesters have widely different accounts of what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #1: (Singing) Justice for...

MATT SEPIC, BYLINE: Even with nighttime temperatures falling into the teens, protesters are refusing to remove their tents from the front lawn of a police station here in North Minneapolis. They've been camping out since a week ago, when a police officer shot and killed 24-year-old Jamar Clark. Protesters, citing witness accounts, say Clark was handcuffed when he was killed. A police union leader says that's just not true. Nearly a week ago, 42 demonstrators were arrested while blocking Interstate 94, and there were other skirmishes as well. Last Friday, the group swelled to more than 1,000 to hear NAACP President Cornell William Brooks.


CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS: We have to both turn up the heat and turn up the light. We have to press our case, make the case forcefully but also nonviolently.

SEPIC: By yesterday, things were much quieter. Demonstrators, including 29-year-old Devonne Mayweather, are demanding that state investigators release video that may show what happened just before Minneapolis policemen shot Jamar Clark. Mayweather says Clark did not have a gun, and police could've subdued him without deadly force.

DEVONNE MAYWEATHER: It was an excuse to shoot him in the head. He had no right to shoot him in his head. He was executed.

SEPIC: Police Chief Janee Harteau has said very little about the incident. But police union President Bob Kroll says two officers were helping paramedics respond to a domestic violence call when Clark grabbed the handle of one policeman's holstered pistol. Kroll points out that Clark was convicted of armed robbery in 2010. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to threatening to burn down his ex-girlfriend's apartment. Kroll says last Sunday, Clark fought with police officers as they tried to keep him away from the ambulance crew.


BOB KROLL: Mr. Clark was given multiple opportunities to desist. Instead, he chose to engage officers in a life-or-death struggle for an officer's weapon.

SEPIC: Kroll says Clark was never handcuffed, and that's where the narratives between police and protesters diverge. Some Minneapolis political leaders are calling for state investigators to release the video immediately, and talks are underway. Governor Mark Dayton agrees that the footage should become public as soon as possible.


MARK DAYTON: I will urge that the tapes be provided to the family and released to the public as soon as doing so will not jeopardize the Department of Justice's investigation.

SEPIC: In Minneapolis, as in many urban areas, there are long simmering tensions between the African-American community and police. As another week of protests gets underway, some demonstrators here say their message is also about a sense of disrespect many feel in day-to-day encounters with police officers. For NPR News, I'm Matt Sepic in Minneapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.