- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - In advance of an upcoming decision on whether two officers will be charged in the November death of a black man, Minneapolis’ police chief issued a videotaped message to potential protesters Thursday, saying there has to be a balance between the right to free speech and public safety, and that violence will not be tolerated.

Chief Janee Harteau posted her one-minute message on the department’s website and it was tweeted by the department.

“We will not tolerate acts of violence against anyone, and that includes acts of violence against our officers,” Harteau said. “We will enforce the laws of Minnesota and the ordinances of the city of Minneapolis, and anyone who violates them will be held accountable.”

Jamar Clark, 24, was shot by police Nov. 15 during what authorities called a struggle. But some who say they saw the shooting have said that Clark wasn’t struggling and was handcuffed. Clark died a day later.

His shooting prompted protests, including an 18-day encampment outside a police precinct. Harteau’s video includes footage from that occupation, including images of a bonfire in the street, a broken window in a police vehicle and Molotov cocktails being tossed over a fence.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced last week that he would not rely on a grand jury and would instead make a decision himself on whether Officer Mark Ringgenberg and Officer Dustin Schwarze would face charges. He has said he hopes to have a decision by the end of the month.

Harteau said she understands the upcoming decision “has the potential to cause some tension and angst in and around our city.” She also said police have a history of helping residents exercise their First Amendment rights, but public safety will be the top priority.

“We will not allow people to set fires on our streets or occupy and vandalize our buildings. We will not allow people to jeopardize the safety of others by causing massive disruptions and hindering emergency vehicles from helping those in need,” Harteau said.

Mica Grimm, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, said: “I kind of look at this video as a way to slander protesters ahead of time and kind of vilify us before we even get the chance to speak our piece as to what’s going on. … This is meant to scare people and intimidate people.”

Grimm also feared the video means the officers won’t face charges.

But police spokesman Scott Seroka said the department doesn’t know what Freeman’s decision will be, or when it will come out. Seroka said the video was made because a conversation about potential protests needed to happen - both now and for any demonstrations in the future.

Grimm added that the video footage doesn’t highlight the peaceful behavior of most of the protesters, calling it “kind of disgusting.”


Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/amyforliti . More of her work can be found at: https://bigstory.ap.org/content/amy-forliti

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