Despite their arrests, however, many witnesses, and even the local leader of civil rights organization NAACP, believe that the police were either behind or complicit in the attacks.
The shooting occurred late Monday evening a block away from the 4th precinct police department in Minneapolis where demonstrators had been camped out for over a week to demand justice for Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man killed by cops on November 15. Witnesses to the police shooting, including a 10-year-old child, have all maintained that Clark was handcuffed when he was shot “execution style,” while police initially claimed he was not.
The encampment had vowed not to move until the department released surveillance footage of the shooting, as the officers involved were not wearing body cameras.
On Monday evening, chaos ensued as protesters confronted a group they refer to as “white supremacists,” who had harassing demonstrators. Organizers had recently uncovered a video of the men flashing a weapon on their way to do “recon” at the protest.
When confronted and asked to remove their masks, the men refused and were chased away from the protest. One of the men then began shooting at the crowd, and wounded five people, all black men.
Following a brief SWAT standoff on Tuesday morning, police arrested 23-year-old Allen “Lance” Scarsella for the protest shooting, and two other suspects later turned themselves in: 21-year-old Nathan Gustavsson and 26-year-old Daniel Macey.
Social media posts from the trio show a deep appreciation for guns, the Confederacy, and US militia movements.
Meanwhile, Reisha Williams, communications chair of the Minneapolis NAACP, told CNN that she as well as others who were present believe that either the police were involved in the attack, or stood idly by, allowing them to occur.
“We believe the police department is facilitating the injustice, bullying the protesters,” Williams replied. “And we also believe that they’re involved in this shooting. We know from blackboards and chat rooms and also videos that we have posted on our website that police that are from different counties, police from different districts have come down to entice the protesters, have come down to bully the protesters,” Williams told CNN.
She noted that protesters have claimed that a police officer told the demonstrators that “this is what you’ve been wanting,” following the shooting.