MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis is struggling to deal with an intersection that threatens to become the next 38th and Chicago.
Midday on Tuesday, the city appeared to make a statement, as heavily-armed police officers in tactical gear moved in to began clearing and reopening the intersection of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue in the busy Uptown neighborhood. A number of WCCO crews were there, and described a tense scene between authorities and protesters.READ MORE: COVID In Minnesota: ICU Hospitalizations Now At 64; Positivity Rate Up To 3.1%
— Susan-Elizabeth (@susanelizabethL) June 15, 2021
— esme murphy (@esmemurphy) June 15, 2021
But soon after police left Tuesday afternoon, protesters moved back in again and blocked traffic from flowing. Some were seen lifting a Metro Transit bus shelter to rebuild a barricade early Tuesday evening.
WATCH: People at Lake & Girard near where Winston Smith was killed, and where Deona Knajdek was struck & killed are adding things to block the street. Here they’re moving a Metro Transit shelter. Earlier today police & city employees opened the intersection #wcco pic.twitter.com/ayxvULL2kM
— Jennifer Mayerle (@jennifermayerle) June 15, 2021
Police and Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputies returned to the area at about 8:30 p.m. to push back protesters, while city crews removed the new barricades.
City crews are hauling things away from W Lake Street, where earlier people brought in tires, microwaves, chairs and more to block the area around W Lake & Girard. Heavy police presence remains #uptown #wcco pic.twitter.com/2Sx4vt0602
— Jennifer Mayerle (@jennifermayerle) June 16, 2021
The intersection has been shut down on and off since June 3, when Winston Boogie Smith Jr., 32, was shot and killed by law enforcement. But tensions escalated significantly since the death of 31-year-old protester Deona Knajdek Sunday night. She was killed when a speeding car crashed into her car, which she was using to protect protesters. Three other people were injured. The driver is in custody and will likely be charged Wednesday. Police say drugs or alcohol may have been a factor.
Protesters told WCCO they want the intersection shut down the way the George Floyd memorial continues to shut down the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, dubbed “George Floyd Square.”
“It’s a remembrance. It’s almost like a celebration of life, and as [Knajdek] is no longer with us, it would only be right to pay respects,” protester Tod Gramenz said.
Jennifer Pierce and Tanya James drove in from Arkansas to protest, but won’t be driving anywhere for a while after their car was towed.READ MORE: Burnsville Police Seek Public's Help Locating Missing Man
“Been here all night. I laid down in the car to take a nap and she says, ‘They’re coming.’ I get out of the car, [police] stabbed my tires, pushed me out of the way,” Pierce said.
James calls the incident “sickening.”
“[Police officers are] above the law and they continue to get away with being above the law because they have a badge,” James said.
Mayor Jacob Frey defended Tuesday’s reopening.
“This is a safety concern. We can’t have a major commercial corridor like this shut down,” Frey said. “We can’t have unauthorized closure of our streets, period. People need service.”
Mayor Frey says extra officers will be on patrol Tuesday night, and they will arrest people if they don’t follow orders to clear the area.
Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender, who represents Uptown, says city leaders are working to unite protesters and the community.
“Everyone in our community wants safety, everyone in our community wants peace,” Bender said. “Our community is united in wanting racial justice.”
City leaders also talked Tuesday about how Lake and Hennepin is already one of the most high-injury intersections in the city.
Tim McHugh says his restaurant, Amore Uptown, has been losing reservations left and right due to the protests.
“It’s gotten pretty aggressive for the business owners, aggressive for the residents, aggressive for the visitors,” McHugh said. “Many, many, many people, starting last weekend, simply canceled over concerns over safety in Uptown, and that’s having an impact on all the local businesses, not just ours.”
Some businesses are closed temporarily, while Juut salon closed permanently, citing crime.
“The crowd, the activists just seem to be very aggressive,” McHugh said. “All we are trying to do is keep commerce moving and keep people safe.”
Elizabeth Lee says the nail salon she manages near Lake and Hennepin was tagged overnight. Lee and her employees watched the back and forth between protesters and police all Tuesday.
“We are really worried and concerned for our clientele as well as, you know, our staff,” Lee said. “I did see police here for most part of the day earlier trying to clear out the streets, and then as soon as they left, protesters or whoever is out there at … the intersection, they boarded it up again.”
Smith, of St. Paul, was killed on the top floor of a parking ramp near Lake and Hennepin on June 3 as authorities were trying to arrest him on a weapons violation. The U.S. Marshals Service said he was wanted for allegedly being a felon in possession of a firearm, and that Smith — who was in a parked vehicle — didn’t comply and “produced a handgun resulting in task force members firing upon the subject.”
The shooting of Smith happened in a city that has been on edge since the death of George Floyd just over a year ago, and the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by an officer in nearby Brooklyn Center in April.
Smith’s shooting has sparked days of protests in Uptown, as his family members and community members have demanded transparency. Authorities have said there is no body camera or squad camera footage of the shooting. In addition, the two task force members who fired at Smith — one sheriff’s deputy from Ramsey County and one from Hennepin County — were working undercover, so authorities say state law bars them from releasing their names.MORE NEWS: Man Taken Into Custody After Shooting, Standoff With Duluth Police
A city-owned surveliience camera, which police say would have captured Sunday’s deadly crash, had been disabled by spray paint about three hours earlier by a young man who climbed a pole near Lake Street and Girard Avenue. Police are asking for anyone who can ID the man pictured above to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or submit a tip online. Tipsters can remain anonymous.
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