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Police chase protesters, journalists on second night of Minneapolis curfew

Saturday's curfew in Minneapolis was carried out forcefully by Minnesota State Patrol officers, among other law enforcement agencies.

Saturday's curfew in Minneapolis was carried out forcefully by Minnesota State Patrol officers, among other law enforcement agencies. Susan Du

At 8 p.m., an emergency alert lit up the phones of all the protesters gathered outside the Fifth Precinct police station in south Minneapolis. 

"The city of Minneapolis is under a strict curfew, beginning at 8 pm. Go home or to safe indoor location. Avoid the outdoors. The curfew is enforceable by law."

More than a few burst out in spontaneous laughter.

It was the fifth night of protests in the name of George Floyd, the black man killed by Minneapolis police, and the second night of an all-night curfew. Merely by being out in public past that hour, the hundreds who'd massed at the intersection of Nicollet Avenue and 31st Street for a peaceful protest, many of them sitting down in the street and listening to organizer speeches, were in violation. 

They waited to see what that meant.

Within the hour, a large group of Minnesota State Patrol troops arrived by bus, flanked by military-type vehicles. Forming a line along Nicollet, the troops approached the south side of the protest moving in lock-step, and filling the street with tear gas as they came.

Susan Du

Susan Du

The crowd scrambled away from the clouds and a volley of less-lethal projectiles. A handful of protesters stopped to hurl objects like water bottles back in their direction -- to no obvious effect -- though most fell back and regrouped in the parking lot of the Lake Street Kmart.

After a pause of a few minutes, police and guard troops moved in, and protesters fled again, splintering into smaller groups that scattered in different directions. 

The short-lived standoff was one of only a few larger engagements Saturday night between law enforcement and civilians purposefully breaking curfew. Tensions mounted as the darkness approached, with many fearing clashes between agitators and the National Guard, who'd been activated in greater numbers than the previous night.

On Friday, the combination of curfew and the deployment of National Guard did little to quell the peaceful protest, from some, and destruction of property from others.

Still others on Saturday feared a continuation of looting and arson seen in south Minneapolis and elsewhere. Some neighborhoods organized overnight watches to keep the peace. Some residential streets near Lake Street in south Minneapolis were blocked off to traffic with homemade barricades.

As night fell, residents on nearly every block of the neighborhood made themselves visible sitting outside their homes or on porches. In the Cedar-Riverside and Little Earth neighborhoods, wary volunteers kept an eye on homes and businesses, some prepared with bats or other weapons. 

In one disturbing video that went viral Saturday night, a woman filmed Minnesota State Patrol officers moving down her block around dusk. "Get inside!" one screamed. 

"Light 'em up," another said, and a few seconds later, and one or more troopers fired marking rounds.

Much of the discussion online indicated residents were most afraid of "outside agitators," including the rumored presence of white supremacists. Reports of suspicious vehicles in neighborhoods well after curfew proliferated. At least two incidents -- a shooting, and an attempted arson -- were taken as potential acts of racial violence.

The night was also marked by repeated incidents of police threatening, detaining, or shooting less-lethal weapons at journalists, who are exempt from curfew. 

City streets were also thick with officers from the Minneapolis Police Department and the Hennepin County Sheriff Department, who alternately zoomed down thoroughfares in multi-vehicle caravans, blocked off streets, or escorted mini-fleets of humvees.

In the end, there was no violent clash between protesters and the National Guard or local law enforcement. "Dozens" of arrests were made throughout the night, the Star Tribune reports. Cops continued rounding up those breaking curfew past midnight Sunday morning.

Sometime around 12:30 a.m., Hennepin County deputies showed up at Chicago Avenue and 38th Street, the intersection where Floyd, 46, was killed on Monday. The intersection and surrounding blocks have become a place for mourners and demonstrators to bear witness, with flowers, signs, and chalk messages lining the street.

As WCCO reported live, this atmosphere didn't stop deputies from firing less-lethal rounds on the few still gathered there and taking people at the corner into custody. 

A curfew remains in effect in both Minneapolis and St. Paul starting at 8 p.m. Sunday night.