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Black Lives Matter demonstrators dig in at Mpls. police precinct, undeterred by rain, cold

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Cameron Clark, cousin of Jamar Clark.
Cameron Clark stood with other protesters who were publicly demanding justice for Jamar Clark outside the Fourth Precinct in north Minneapolis.
Doualy Xaykaothao | MPR News

The entrance to the Minneapolis Police Department's Fourth Precinct has been occupied by Black Lives Matter demonstrators since Sunday, when officers shot Jamar Clark, a black man in his 20s. 

The rain didn't deter people from gathering outside the precinct Monday morning — the crowd grew larger as the day went on. A supporter even started a fire pit to keep people warm, placing firewood inside some tents. Food, water and sleeping bags were stacked in others.

On the wet sidewalk, next to a lawn dotted with red and blue tents, Cameron Clark, a cousin of Jamar Clark, talked with a group of black men. 

It's just not right what happened to his cousin, he said.

"Just because you have a badge on ... and then you kill someone, and then you're still getting paid? He should be locked up," Clark said. "You should be prosecuted. And my cousin deserves justice because he should still be here right now.

Felicia Perry and Nicque Mabrey
Felicia Perry and Nicque Mabrey took turns camping out at the entrance of the Fourth Precinct Monday.
Doualy Xaykaothao | MPR News

Behind Clark, supporters talked quietly under tents, some visibly tired, clutching cups of donated coffee or worn-out signs. Past a large Black Lives Matter banner, a group of women were sleeping behind a glass door. The entranceway to the police headquarters is the size of small closet, but at least eight people were packed on the floor. 

Inside, from a wall intercom, a phone rang for hours, but the women inside didn't even hear it. Some of them had slept there for 24 hours, others, like Khadra Abdi Ali of Bloomington, rotate in.

"The community has done a great job at making us feel very comfortable," she said. "They brought in hot thermos bags, they brought in tons of food, a bunch of blankets, so we're really warm right now, and very comfortable." 

When asked why she was camped out at police headquarters, she replied: Justice for Jamar. 

"Justice, for me, is indicting the officer who got away with this atrocity," she said.

Minneapolis police officials have asked the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate the shooting. And while the investigation is underway, police chief Janee Harteau said she won't release the names of the officers involved — or any other details about the shooting. 

That's unacceptable for Miski Noor, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, who said she wants authorities to release video of the incident that a security camera near the scene may have captured.

"We made a decision to stay here until our demands are met, or we're arrested," Noor said. "So we're not going anywhere until we see some movement on getting the tapes released."

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has asked the Justice Department to review the investigation. Noor said that's not enough. 

"We have a lot more work to do, right? Jamar Clark is just one case. This is systemic. Violence on black bodies happens every single day in a multitude of ways," Noor said. "The system does not work for us. And it needs to be completely torn down. We need a new system that actually represents black people and other people of color."

Leaning against the glass doorway, Mica Grimm nodded in agreement. 

"I believe that our state officials need to call for a special session for Black Lives Matter," she said. "I think we need to talk about the issues that are affecting not only this community on the north side, but people in Brooklyn Center, people who live in Northfield, people who are in Duluth, people who are in St. Cloud. We've heard awful stories of racism. How can we say that's OK? How can we not do something more for people in the state of Minnesota? We have to."  

That's how Wintana Melekin sees it, too. She sat against a heater that demonstrators said was shut down overnight. 

"We have all these Fortune 500's, all these nonprofits, but we're not addressing the real issues, because we keep addressing little pieces of the problem, instead of addressing the actual system," she said. "And so I want to take it to the Legislature, continue to take it to the city, and then continue to fight for it, and whoever gets in our way, will get un-elected." 

All of the women said they will help to occupy the Fourth Precinct until they are either arrested or police release the surveillance video.