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Police back off on 5th night of protests in Brooklyn Center

No tear gas or any other crowd control munitions were used.

No one was arrested and physical altercations between law enforcement and demonstrators were few and far between during the fifth night of protesting in Brooklyn Center Thursday. 

Protesters by the hundreds have gathered outside the heavily secured Brooklyn Center Police Department each night since 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a Black man, was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop April 11. 

But in contrast to protests between Sunday and Wednesday,, authorities used a less aggressive strategy on Thursday night, and the result was a far more more peaceful situation that saw no protesters being struck by rubber marking rounds, pepper spray, shock grenades or tear gas. 

Police did not discharge any weapons on the crowd, even after the city's 10 p.m. curfew passed. Instead, police were backed away from a newly reinforced fence and barricade surrounding the police department. They also never issued a dispersal order, never forming lines of riot gear-dressed officers to march through the streets with batons. 

Operation Safety Net, the multi-agency coalition designed to protect life and property during civil unrest, reported some protesters throwing bricks, rocks, pop cans and fruit over the fence at police. 

"Protesters have begun to re-engage and throw objects over the fence, injuring officers and guardsmen with flying debris," Operation Safety Net tweeted at 10:38 p.m. 

The crowd was estimated to be 1,000 strong before the 10 p.m. curfew, then dwindled to around 200 by 10:25 p.m. By 11 p.m. the crowd was down to approximately 75 people, and at 11:30 p.m. there were fewer than 20, according to Operation Safety Net. 

The night of peace followed approximately two-dozen arrests Wednesday night, and more than 60 arrests Tuesday night. 

It was also the first night this week that Operation Safety Net did not hold an overnight press conference, so there was no explanation why the strategy Thursday night differed so much from previous nights. But it comes after the police response to the Wright protests has come under increasing scrutiny.

After tear gas was deployed the first three nights of unrest, it stopped the day Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott criticized its use, saying "gassing, in my opinion, is not a humane way of policing."

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Gov. Tim Walz was criticized for defending the use of tear gas in certain situations. 

"I would argue and make the case that last night, the protection of life, the protection of property, and the clear thoughtful use of how these were deployed in a limited manner made sense," Walz told MPR News on Tuesday. He added that police have to "strike a balance" when using the "deterrents." 

Walz spoke Thursday at a press briefing and said he believes the police station "would have been burned down" if it weren't for the fence, the use of crowd control measures such as tear gas, and numerous law enforcement personnel defending the property.

In May 2020, the 3rd Precinct in Minneapolis was burned in wake of George Floyd's death during his arrest by city police.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the 5th Precinct burned in May 2020. It was the 3rd Precinct. We apologize for the error.

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