MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Tear gas, flames and smoke filled the streets surrounding the Minneapolis Police 3rd Precinct Wednesday evening, as officers tried to get people to leave the area in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

Late Wednesday night, protesters set several fires, including inside of an AutoZone store by the precinct building, located near the intersection of Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue. The St. Paul Police Department sent about 40 officers to help protect Minneapolis Firefighters as they worked.

Just before 7 p.m., dozens of people began looting the Target store near the 3rd Precinct. Other neighboring businesses were also looted and sustained damage.

A Target spokesperson issued a statement to WCCO Wednesday night, saying they closed the Lake Street store earlier in day indefinitely to ensure its employees are safe. The company says its focus is now on helping our community heal.

Gov. Tim Walz took to Twitter late Wednesday night to urge people to leave the area.

About two miles south, other protesters gathered peacefully at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where Floyd had his deadly encounter with police.

The protests starting Tuesday afternoon, when thousands gathered at the Chicago Avenue site. Though it began peacefully, the tone of the protest shifted in the evening as a small group marched towards the 3rd Precinct building and clashed with officers in riot gear.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo says he ordered officers not to respond until a few people got past a fence and into a parking area where there were weapons inside squad cars. Arradondo says officers arrested five people for breaking into a business across the street. Still, he says the vast majority of protesters have been peaceful.

Mid-afternoon Wednesday, protesters surrounded the precinct building, as officers stood guard from above. Starting at about 6 p.m., police began firing chemical irritant and firing rubber bullets at the precinct, located near the intersection of Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue, as video on social media shows some protesters once again began breaking the precinct’s windows.

Activists like Tray Pollard tried to stop people from vandalizing it further.

“Letting them know I stand with you, but I’m not gonna stand with nonsense, it’s just that simple,” Pollard said.

Earlier in the day, dozens of people blocked traffic at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, with demonstrators chanting, lifting signs, and standing in the intersection to block traffic.

Cars parked in the street, blocking three sides of the intersection. At one point, when a car approached, a protester told them to turn around, saying “We ain’t moving.”

As they stood outside Cup Foods, the protesters were lead through prayer and chants. Some left memorials, while others used chalk and spray paint to write messages on the street. The words “Justice for Floyd” and “Black Lives Matter” were written with spray paint in between the lines of the sidewalk. At the time, no police were present.

A group also gathered outside of what they believe to be fired officer Derek Chauvin’s home in Oakdale for the second day in a row.

READ MORE: Minneapolis Releases Identities Of 4 Officers Involved In George Floyd’s Fatal Arrest

Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump, who represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, announced he would be representing Floyd’s family on Tuesday afternoon. He later called for peaceful protests and social distancing.

“The community is understandably and rightfully upset by the wrongful death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, and their grief and outrage are pouring out onto the streets of Minneapolis,” he said in a statement. “We share these painful emotions and demand justice, but we also urge everyone who wishes to raise their voice to engage in peaceful protests and observe social distancing.”

After the bystander video of Floyd’s arrest circulated Tuesday on social media – sparking outrage across the country – Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo fired Chauvin and three other officers involved in the encounter. Chauvin was identified Tuesday, while Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J Alexander Keung were identified by the City of Minneapolis Wednesday afternoon.

Chauvin and his three former colleagues were initially called to the Powderhorn neighborhood intersection Monday evening on a report of someone trying to use a forged document at a deli.

Minneapolis police initially said that Floyd resisted arrest, but video obtained by CBS News contradicts that, at least in the early moments of the encounter.

READ MORE: ‘Justice Will Be Served!’: President Trump Calls For Expedited Investigation Into George Floyd’s Death

On Wednesday afternoon, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to charge the officer who had his knee on Floyd’s neck. He also stated that he wanted the body camera video of the incident released as soon as possible.

Floyd’s death is currently under investigation by the FBI, the Minnesota Department of Criminal Apprehension, and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.

Protesters also took to the street of Downtown Los Angeles Wednesday in honor of Floyd, smashing police squad car windows and shutting down parts of the busy 101 Freeway.

Jeff Wagner

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