White Supremacy, Or Self-Defense?

For more than a week, Black Lives Matter protesters have camped outside the 4th Precinct police station in Minneapolis, as a result of an incident on November 15 in which a young black man was shot and killed by a policeman, apparently in an altercation that began when he tried to interfere with paramedics who were attempting to treat an assault victim. The “victim” of the police shooting, Jamar Clark, reportedly was the perpetrator of the assault. Until last night, these protests had been peaceful.

I wrote earlier today about the fact that last night, five of the protesters were shot, none critically, by three men whom the protesters described as “white supremacists.” I am not aware of any evidence to support that characterization, but the press has largely repeated it. (One of the two men arrested today was described as Hispanic.) In my earlier post, I included a video of an interview with two protesters who witnessed the events leading up to the shootings.

Another video of witnesses to the event has now emerged, and it tells a quite different story. These witnesses say that the three men were trying to film the demonstrators and their camp. A group of protesters that considerably outnumbered the three approached them and demanded that they take off their masks. (Some of the protesters were also wearing masks.) The three men refused, and the protesters continued to confront them. The witnesses describe punches being thrown by the protesters on, if I understand them correctly, four occasions. The three men retreated, but the protesters chased them. One of these witnesses saw one or more of the three men reach for a weapon, and warned the others that the men were armed and they shouldn’t pursue them. But the mob continued to chase the three, and at some point one or more of the three men opened fire on the protesters. Here is the video:

Was it self-defense? It certainly could be. As far as I know, no information has emerged about the state of affairs immediately before the shootings. But it is plausible that the three men could reasonably have feared that the mob would inflict great bodily harm, in which case they were entitled to use deadly force in self-defense. Of course, we know nothing about whether any or all of the three men had permits to carry firearms. And the men did not help their case by fleeing the scene.

Another obvious question is, where were the police? One of the oddities of this case is that the original assault and the altercation with Jamar Clark occurred within a block or two of the 4th Precinct station. Likewise, the events of last night occurred in close proximity to the station. Apparently having a lot of policemen around doesn’t confer as much security as one might have thought.