Tug-of-war between city, protesters over ‘occupation’ at Uptown Minneapolis intersection

Protesters have been moving makeshift barricades into the street and blocking traffic in the area of West Lake Street and Girard Avenue South since the fatal shooting of Winston Smith on June 3.

Barricades in Uptown Minneapolis (Uptown Crime/Facebook).

For the second time in a year, activists are attempting to overtake and hold a Minneapolis intersection and close it to vehicular traffic following a law enforcement-involved fatal shooting.

Following the deadly shooting of wanted fugitive Winston Smith by deputies acting on behalf of a federal fugitive task force, community members and activists have been holding protests at the site of the shooting to demand answers from officials. The shooting took place on June 3 atop an Uptown parking garage.

The protesters have been moving makeshift barricades into the street and blocking traffic in the area of West Lake Street and Girard Avenue South since the incident. At times, some of the protesters have been seen with bats and sticks, according to online reports.

On Sunday night, June 13, a protester was killed when a vehicle reported to be speeding crashed into another vehicle that was being used as part of a makeshift barricade. Following widespread and, as yet, unfounded rumors that the suspect arrested was a “white supremacist,” protesters redoubled their efforts to barricade and block the area.

By Tuesday morning, roads and intersections in the area had been blocked by fencing, pallets, beer kegs, and garbage cans that had been dragged into place by protesters.

Just hours later, city crews moved in with police assistance and began removing the barricades.

Several online reports posted photos of debris and barricades being placed back in the roadway as soon as the city crews left, including a group that dragged a Metro Transit bus shelter into the road.

Protesters drag a Metro Transit bus shelter into the road (CrimeWatchMpls/Twitter).

Minneapolis leaders, including Mayor Jacob Frey and City Council President Lisa Bender, held a press conference late Tuesday afternoon to give an update on the activity and protests involving the events in Uptown.

While the mayor stated that blocking Lake Street, a major commercial corridor, would not be acceptable, he was not able to articulate any clear actions the city would be taking to stop the road from being re-blocked. Frey emphasized that the city has been prioritizing “de-escalation” techniques to avoid conflict and inflicting “additional trauma” on the community.

The mayor addressed actions that would be taken Tuesday night if protests no longer remained peaceful. Frey indicated that regional law enforcement partners would be present and that dispersal orders would be given prior to arrests being made.

Just after 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, law enforcement rushed into the area of Lake Street and Girard Avenue South and began removing barricades.

Police were met with resistance when protesters began throwing barricades and debris at officers and scattered when police moved in to make arrests.

At one point, protesters tried to impede a media van from leaving the area.

KSTP reported Wednesday morning that only three people were arrested on gross misdemeanor and felony charges.

This is the second roadway area to be taken over by activists and protesters in Minneapolis in the last year.

Minneapolis leaders have been unsuccessful in several attempts at trying to open the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue South, known as George Floyd Square, that was taken over by activists over a year ago following the death of George Floyd.

Just after noon on Wednesday, a letter from Mayor Frey was posted online in which he thanked Gov. Tim Walz for preparing a small contingent of National Guard members for deployment if the need arises.

Walz has given the National Guard a warning order after out-of-state agitators are reportedly setting their sights on Minneapolis.

Alpha News will provide updates as the Uptown situation continues to develop.

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