Racial tensions in Minneapolis that were already tense took another dramatic turn on the night of Monday, November 23, when five members of the activist group Black Lives Matter (BLM) were wounded by gunfire from what was reported to be three members of a white supremacist group. The five individuals, all between the ages of 19 and 43, were shot near the city’s Fourth Precinct police station, with all of them transported to a nearby hospital.
The police’s official Twitter feed indicated that none of the wounds suffered by the five men are considered to be life-threatening. Less than 24 hours later, Minneapolis police announced the arrest of three individuals in connection with the shootings, all of them white. 23-year-old Allen Lawrence “Lance” Scarsella III, was arrested in suburban Bloomington, while 26-year-old Daniel Macey of Pine City and 21-year-old Nathan Gustavsson of Hermantown chose to turn themselves in after being notified that they were suspects. Hours before in south Minneapolis, a 32-year-old Hispanic man was released from custody after being arrested for his apparent involvement. However, further investigation indicated that he hadn’t been at the scene of the crime.
The incident on Monday night began at approximately 10:45 p.m. local time during the continuing protests that have taken place since the police shooting of a 24-year-old unarmed black man, Jamar Clark. In the earliest accounts of the Clark shooting, Minneapolis police stated that he had been considered a suspect in an assault on his girlfriend. While paramedics attempted to treat the alleged assault victim, Clark was accused of interfering with them, actions which led to the arrival of police. During an ensuing scuffle between Clark and officers Dustin Schwarze and Mark Ringgenberg, gunfire then resulted. Clark died of a bullet to the head, though police have disputed some witness claims that he had been handcuffed at the time of the shooting.
The BLM group had been encamped roughly a block north of the police station, and said that four men wearing masks arrived on Monday night and attempted to film the protest. Since such individuals, who BLM referred to as white supremacists, had shown up on many of the nights since the protest began, a safety committee made up of an estimated dozen protesters first asked what they were doing. After refusing to answer, the suspected shooters then also refused to take off their masks when asked. While the group was being escorted away from the area, the shooters opened fire. One of the five wounded, Wesley Martin, indicated that he had been shot while chasing the suspects close to a nearby alley. Martin mentioned that the youngest of the victims, 19-year-old Teven King, had been shot in the stomach and had undergone surgery, then also indicated that another of the victims was the nephew of Clark, 24-year-old Cameron Clark.
The shooting aggravated the already-tenuous relationship between the group and police, with members of BLM saying that police were slow in their response to the shooting. In response, a police official stated that officers were on the scene within three minutes of being notified. The prosecutor’s office is still weighing the idea of charging the men in question with a hate crime, which would increase the potential penalties involved. The increased presence of BLM and the protests that have resulted has developed into a major controversy. The group was formed in 2013 to protest what they believed was a growing list of violent actions against African-Americans, particularly by law enforcement officers. That’s led to an opposition backlash who counter by saying that “All Lives Matter.”