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Police Force Against MN Protesters Renews Debate Over Tactics

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Community activists in Minnesota and other parts of the U.S. are calling on police agencies to adopt alternative strategies for crowd control, after non-lethal tactics sent many people to hospitals in the past year. (Adobe Stock)
Community activists in Minnesota and other parts of the U.S. are calling on police agencies to adopt alternative strategies for crowd control, after non-lethal tactics sent many people to hospitals in the past year. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
April 19, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- State and local law enforcement response to police protests in Minnesota is drawing new scrutiny, with the Daunte Wright shooting and the Derek Chauvin trial.

Over the weekend, more than 100 medical professionals held a rally in Brooklyn Center a week after Wright, who was Black, was fatally shot by a police officer.

The incident set off several nights of protests, where authorities clashed with demonstrators with officers deploying tear gas and non-lethal projectiles.

Erika Kaske, a medical student at the University of Minnesota, is among those decrying the use of these tactics.

"We want people in Minnesota to be able to express their voice and their concerns in a safe way," Kaske explained. "Unfortunately, we worry if the use of these weapons continues, it's in our findings that protesters might become patients."

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published Kaske's research on local emergency room visits stemming from last year's protests after George Floyd's murder.

She said dozens required immediate care, including for injuries from rubber bullets. Some 40% were head, face and neck injuries, which Kaske said goes against United Nations guidelines.

Some in law enforcement say the methods are required to protect residents and property when protests escalate.

But community activists argue law enforcement often incites tension with its "militarized" look following a controversial incident.

As for tear gas, its use in last week's protests heightened concerns because of the impact on nearby residents who weren't part of the demonstration.

Kaske said that came up in her research of last year's events as well.

"And this exacerbated conditions, like COPD and asthma, that required an emergency room visit," Kaske recounted.

As closing arguments begin today in the Chauvin trial, activists say they have similar fears, noting a beefed up National Guard presence in the metro area.

Law enforcement has also been criticized for its treatment of journalists in recent protests, despite reporters clearly displaying their credentials.

The outcry prompted an apology from Gov. Tim Walz, and cities like Brooklyn Center have adopted resolutions banning certain police tactics during protests. There is a similar proposal in the Legislature.

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