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Racial tensions have been pushed to their limits in Minneapolis due to the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a Minneapolis police officer.  Since then the police precinct has been besieged by a makeshift encampment and hundreds of protesters in recent days.

Police have tried to improve race relations in recent years, and succeeded in some areas. However according to some community activists, racial disparities, high unemployment rates for blacks, a disproportionate number of arrests for minor crimes and inequities in housing and the school system have been going on for so long that Sunday’s shooting of Jamar Clark, and the reaction from the community, was no surprise.

Protests have escalated again Wednesday night as a crowd outside the precinct office near where Clark was shot grew. Police spokesman John Elder said police at one point used a chemical irritant to control the crowd, and a chemical spray was also directed at officers.

Police later reported that several officers sustained minor injuries from rocks and water bottles that were thrown and said several squad cars were damaged.  24 year old Clark, was shot in the head during a confrontation with two officers.

According to police he was a suspect in an assault and was interfering with paramedics trying to treat the victim. Police said there was a scuffle, and Clark was shot as a result.  Some people who say they witnessed the shooting claim Clark wasn’t struggling and was handcuffed.

Police initially said he wasn’t handcuffed, and the president of the Minneapolis police union, Lt. Bob Kroll, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Clark was “disarming” the officer and was not handcuffed. According to the state agency that’s investigating the shooting, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said one of the things it’s looking at is whether Clark was restrained.

On Wednesday the officers involved in the shooting were identified as Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, both with seven years of experience including 13 months with the Minneapolis department. Their race wasn’t released because it’s private under state law, however police in Maple Grove, where Ringgenberg worked before joining the Minneapolis force, said he is white.

Members of the Minneapolis chapter of Black Lives Matter and other demonstrators want police to release video of the shooting, but the BCA has declined to do so, explaining it would taint the investigation. The FBI is also undertaking a civil rights investigation.

 

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