Racial justice activists say they’ll continue to hold vigil for two people killed recently in the Uptown area of Minneapolis, Winston Smith and Deona Erickson. Demonstrators vow to keep Lake Street closed even as city leaders work to keep the busy thoroughfare open to traffic.
Around midday Tuesday, Minneapolis police officers and public works crews arrived at Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue. They pulled down makeshift barricades that demonstrators had set up to protect a memorial where Erickson was killed late Sunday night.
Erickson, who would have turned 32 Wednesday, was part of a group protesting the law enforcement killing of Smith in an Uptown parking garage. Sheriff’s deputies on a U.S. Marshals Service task force fatally shot Smith June 3 while trying to arrest him on an outstanding firearms warrant.
Erickson died after a man rammed his SUV at high speed into a crowd of protesters that had gathered on Lake Street.
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After moving flowers from Erickson’s memorial on the sidewalk to Smith’s on the top floor of the parking ramp, an activist who goes by the name Narrow said he fears that if things go back to normal and the street is reopened, people will forget the names of Winston Smith and Deona Erickson.
“We’re trying to create and paint our own narrative, put the brush in our hands and got our own canvas, which is all of our canvas. We’re the artists now,” the activist said.
Narrow was among dozens of people who gathered at the memorial site late Tuesday afternoon. A few others stood watch over a barricade made of wooden pallets, a dumpster and a construction sign. People put it up soon after city crews removed the previous one.
Hours later, police detained some people and crews cleared the road.
In news conference earlier Tuesday afternoon, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey acknowledged the tragedies, and said protesters are right to exercise their First Amendment rights to demand answers. But the mayor said Lake Street cannot remain closed.
“To have the street closed off with makeshift barriers as we’ve seen has been dangerous both to patrons, to residents and also to protesters. And we have an obligation to the community to make sure that people are indeed safe,” Frey said.
The intermittent standoff between city leaders and protesters on Lake Street is similar to what’s happened at the spot several miles away where George Floyd was murdered. Officials attempted multiple times to reopen 38th Street and Chicago Avenue to traffic before activists moved the barricades back.
Frey said he also wants answers on why deputies killed Smith and is pressing the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota for information. So far authorities have said little beyond brief written statements, and no body camera video was recorded. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the shooting, said it will not release the officers’ names because they were working undercover.
Search warrants unsealed Tuesday and first reported by KARE 11 shed some light on the investigations into the killings of Smith and Erickson.
The documents say investigators recovered a Smith & Wesson M&P 380 handgun from Smith’s car and a loaded magazine in a duffel bag. A woman who was with Smith when he was killed said through her attorney last week that she never saw Smith with a gun.
In a separate warrant, Minneapolis police say the 35-year-old man suspected of killing Erickson gave incoherent answers to officers’ questions, and according to KARE 11, alternatively giving his name as Jesus Christ and Tim Burton. The warrant also said a city CCTV camera captured the incident and appears to show no brake lights before the crash.
Charges against the driver could come by midday Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office told MPR News.