Police on Thursday tore down an encampment outside a Minneapolis precinct where demonstrators had gathered for more than two weeks to protest the fatal shooting of a black man by police.
Officers, including some wearing helmets with visors, told about 50 chanting demonstrators camped outside the 4th Precinct to disperse at about 4 a.m., and they began removing tents about 15 minutes later.
Demonstrators headed by the local Black Lives Matter chapter had been camping at the site since the Nov. 16 death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark, who was fatally wounded in a confrontation with police a day earlier.
Eight people were arrested during the eviction, Police Chief Janee Harteau said at a news conference. Seven of them were arrested for obstructing the legal process and one person was arrested for trespassing, she said. All eight were being processed at the Hennepin County Jail.
“I do want to make notice to future protests that we will continue to support and facilitate your First Amendment rights and freedom of speech. But, we will also support and enforce the ordinances of the City of Minneapolis and the laws of the state of Minnesota,” Harteau said.
Following the eviction, police and public works crews sent in a convoy of heavy equipment to set concrete barriers in front of the precinct station, along with a steel fence on top.
Several precinct neighbors upset about noise, vandalism and blocked streets, allegedly related to the encampment, voiced their concerns about the weeks-long demonstration at a City Council safety committee meeting on Wednesday.
But demonstrators and residents faced more immediate safety concerns.
Five activists in the camp were shot last month, after racially disparaging messages and threats were posted on social media about their demonstration. None was seriously injured. Four men have been charged with felonies in the Nov. 23 attack.
Witness and police accounts of Clark's death differ, as they have in a series of police killings of black men that have garnered national attention since the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.
Police said they were responding to an assault call on Nov. 15 in which Clark was a suspect, and arrived to find him interfering with paramedics who were attempting to treat the victim. Police say a scuffle ensued and Clark was shot.
Witnesses, however, allege that Clark was already handcuffed and subdued when he was shot.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has called for a federal civil rights investigation into Clark's death. A state investigation is also underway.
Al Jazeera and wire services