Hundreds in Minneapolis protest US police killing of black man in raid

The crowd rallied at Government Plaza in Minnesota's largest city three days after the police shot 22-year-old Amir Locke. PHOTO: AFP

MINNEAPOLIS (REUTERS) - Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of downtown Minneapolis on Saturday (Feb 5) demanding justice in the fatal police shooting of a young black man, Mr Amir Locke, during a "no knock" raid on his apartment earlier in the week.

The boisterous but peaceful crowd, chanting Mr Locke's name and the slogan "no justice, no peace", rallied at Government Plaza in Minnesota's largest city three days after Mr Locke, 22, was shot on his couch by police.

The day after the killing, police released video footage from the raid, which showed Mr Locke was holding a gun as he twisted beneath a blanket on his sofa after being roused by officers moments before he was slain.

Police have said the officers were exercising a no-knock search warrant, which authorises police to enter private property without first alerting occupants or announcing their presence.

The warrant was issued in relation to a homicide probe led by detectives from the neighbouring Saint Paul Police Department.

Mr Locke was not named in the warrant, and Minneapolis police have acknowledged it was unclear how or whether he was connected to that investigation.

On Thursday, interim Minneapolis police chief Amelia Huffman told a news conference that the county attorney's office was reviewing the shooting, and that video from the incident appeared to show Mr Locke's gun pointed towards officers when they opened fire.

Activists at the protest said Mr Locke had a right to possess a weapon in his own home and was never given the chance to disarm himself in the chaotic moments as police stormed into his apartment without warning.

At least 500 demonstrators assembled in below-freezing temperatures on Saturday, demanding an unconditional ban on no-knock warrants, the dismissal and arrest of officers involved in the shooting, and the resignation of the mayor and police chief.

A series of speakers led the crowd through chants demanding racial justice and denouncing police violence against black people, who organisers said have been disproportionately targeted by heavy-handed and discriminatory law enforcement tactics.

Live video footage of the protest from Reuters showed that the crowd remained orderly, while police kept a low profile presence on the fringes of the rally.

On Friday, Mayor Jacob Frey responded to the Locke shooting, ordering a moratorium on no-knock search warrants, saying he was acting to "ensure safety of both the public and officers until a new policy is crafted".

The Locke shooting was the latest of a string of incidents to put Minneapolis-area police department under scrutiny.

Almost two years ago, Mr George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by a white officer who knelt on Mr Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest on suspicion of trying to pass a counterfeit US$20 (S$27) bill.

Outrage over Mr Floyd's death sparked a nationwide movement challenging police brutality and bias in the United States criminal justice system.

The video of Mr Locke's arrest showed police unlocking his apartment with a key and officers shouting "Police, search warrant, get on the ground" as they entered.

An officer then kicks at the couch where Mr Locke was lying and as Mr Locke turns, his arm emerges from under the blanket with a gun seen in his hand. Almost immediately, police fired at least three shots.

Lawyers for Mr Locke's family said he had no criminal history and legally possessed a firearm at the time of his death.

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