Ferguson Unrest Catches Fire in Minneapolis

The decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson strikes an especially harsh chord in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where many are still processing their outrage over local ABC affiliate KSTP's recent racially-charged story now commonly referred to as "Pointergate."

Organizers from local activist groups including Save the Kids and Communities United Against Police Brutality brought together a rally of thousands of protesters in the heart of the city to denounce the lack of any charges against Wilson over his killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown last August.

With steady chants of "No justice, no peace" and "Black lives matter," protesters blocked traffic on major roads and highways as they marched towards the campuses of the University of Minnesota and Augsburg College. Some protesters were injured when one driver impatiently and violently rammed through the crowd and ran one person over, the Star Tribune reported shortly thereafter.

According to the Star Tribune report, the victim was brought to a hospital and had sustained minor injuries.

Later that night, a similar incident occurred when a white van plowed through protesters blocking traffic. Eyewitnesses differed as to whether or not protesters did anything further to antagonize the driver beyond blocking the street.

Tarik Rasouli told me that protesters were banging on the van, at which point the van slammed forward, hitting people.

However, Lesley Anne, a community organizer with Save The Kids, said that the driver "got tired of waiting, pulled out, and hit two people... I guess he figured running two people over was perfectly fine to do."

Not being able to see through the crowd, I could only hear what sounded like a collision followed by screams of protesters, and then saw the van frantically speed away. The driver was quickly apprehended by police.

Later, when a small group of protesters came upon a news van belonging to KSTP-TV, the local ABC affiliate responsible for the "Pointergate" scandal, the anger level rose distinctly. A few protesters approached the van, pressing their protest signs up against the windows and yelling profanities at the staff members inside. A brief verbal confrontation ensued between the protesters and a volunteer marshal imploring them to back off and calm down.

"I'm not here to make anybody comfortable," one protester shot back. "I'm not comfortable in my own community, so why should they be?"

Another protester taunted the KSTP staff, repeatedly shouting, "This is not a gang sign!" while pointing his finger sideways in the air. The protesters backed off when a squad car pulled up.

KSTP has become an object of ridicule and loathing for many in the community after reporter Jay Kolls, exclusively relying on the word of police officers, ran a story claiming that Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and neighborhood organizer Novell Gordon were approvingly flashing gang signs by merely pointing at each other. Daily Kos contributor Shaun King brought the incident to national prominence when he first called out KSTP-TV for the story's glaring racism and absurdity.

As King showed, what their story didn't report is that Minneapolis Police Chief Harteau was also present that day with Mayor Hodges and Gordon, and that Gordon was out canvassing ahead of the midterm elections on behalf of the grassroots organization, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change.

The highly selective piecing together of the facts and the unabashed, baseless maligning of Novell Gordon's reputation promptly drew widespread condemnation both locally and nationally. It probably didn't help when KSTP issued a statement the day after running the story that simply reaffirmed how they had solely relied on and uncritically disseminated police sources, without considering the possible motives for the smear which Hodges herself pointed to recently.

The social undercurrents emanating out from Ferguson certainly ring true in Minneapolis, a city with its own history of police brutality and a long tradition of progressive activism -- a tradition Mayor Hodges herself comes out of. As long as communities here perceive institutionalized injustice and impunity to be the norm, the protests probably won't be going away anytime soon.

Activist Brittany Shepard said she came out to protest because "It's just completely corrupt -- everything in general. Not just for Ferguson. They have gotten absolutely out of hand, shooting people that they don't really need to shoot and trying to control protests and control our freedom of speech."

To Lesley Anne, something has got to give.

"People are on edge. Black people are tired of [our] blood being shed needlessly in the streets. People need to understand that if it doesn't cease, there will be an American summer."