On November 23rd, white supremacists wearing bullet proof vests and masks fired of Black Lives Matter protesters outside of the Minneapolis Police Department 4th precinct building. The protesters had set up camp outside the police station over a week prior, to demand that police release of any video they may have of Jamar Clark’s shooting. Five protesters were shot and rushed to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Four young men were later arrested.
This tragic event reminds us that, just as Earl (2004) and others have as argued, violent repression of protest does not always come from the state. It also comes from vigilante groups like the shooters in Minneapolis, or the mobs of whites who attacked Freedom Riders and other civil rights demonstrators decades ago. Research is sorely needed on the causes, consequences, and dynamics of this sort of private repression of dissent.
According to protesters present at the shooting, police were slow to respond despite the fact that the shooting occurred outside the police station, maced those tending to the wounded, and one officer reportedly even told the protesters “This is what you guys wanted.” The police response to the shootings brings up an important avenue for future research on private repression: it’s relationship with state repression. In this case, it seems that private and state repression are working hand-in-hand to silence Black Lives Matter protesters. In other cases, however, we may see other relationships and dynamics.
Protesters vowed to stay in the streets and refused to be intimated by the attacks or the police response. But on December 3rd, police forced the protesters to disperse, arresting those who did not comply and bulldozing the encampment.