MINNEAPOLIS -- Police were holding three white men in custody as they investigated the shooting of five people who were protesting the police killing of a black man in the Midwestern city of Minneapolis.
The attack on the protesters unfolded late Monday near a police precinct where dozens of protesters have been camped out since the Nov. 15 fatal shooting of Jamar Clark. None suffered life-threatening injuries.
According to police, Clark was shot after he struggled with officers. But some people who said they saw the shooting said the 24-year-old was handcuffed.
The protests are linked to the Black Lives Matter movement which arose in response to a number of police killings of unarmed blacks in Ferguson, Missouri, New York and Baltimore.
Authorities investigating the attack on the protesters arrested a 23-year-old white man, who remained in custody Tuesday evening, and a 32-year-old Hispanic man, who was later released. Two more men -- both white, ages 26 and 21 -- turned themselves in Tuesday afternoon.
Protesters said that before the shooting they noticed three men and a woman who seemed out of place and were asked to leave. Moments later, shots rang out about a block away.
"I really did think it was like firecrackers or something initially because it was so loud and there was like this acrid smell," protester Jie Wronski-Riley said. "I thought, 'Surely, they are not shooting at us."'
Then Wronski-Riley heard the cries of wounded people on the ground. "I really understood the danger we were in and what had happened."
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack, but several racially disparaging comments had been posted on social media in recent days. One video showed a white man brandishing a gun while claiming to be on his way to the protests. Police issued a warning Friday night, asking demonstrators to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour to authorities.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said it will be up to a grand jury to decide whether to bring charges against officers in Clark's death.
Freeman issued a statement Tuesday after repeated requests by black activist groups to make the decision himself rather than go to a grand jury. Protesters have complained that grand juries are unlikely to indict police officers.
After marching from the Fourth Precinct police station in north Minneapolis, the site of constant protests since Clark was shot, to Minneapolis City Hall downtown, several hundred people gathered outside the police station Tuesday night for a concert. The diverse crowd, which included a number of children, listened to hip-hop music and soul classics such as "A Change Is Gonna Come."
"We ain't scared. We can't back down. We ain't turning around, but we're here fighting for justice," Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP civil rights group, told the crowd.
At least one member of Clark's family asked Tuesday for the protests to end. But demonstrators said they would not be intimidated or "bow to fear."
Fourteen people whom protesters believed to be white supremacists were kicked out of the area one night, said Mica Grimm, an organizer of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. She said they came in with their faces covered and filmed the crowd but would not talk to people. Some made racist comments.
Grimm said protesters had been threatened by one group online and had been working with hackers to figure out the group's plans.
Grimm said concerns were brought up to police, but protesters felt the threats were not being taken seriously.
The situation escalated Monday night when members of the protesters' security team approached three men and one woman who were standing under a "Justice4Jamar" sign and asked what they were doing.
"We're here for Jamar," one said, according to Henry Habu, who had been providing security for the demonstrators.
Habu said he and others tried to escort the four away from the protest and they took off running. He and others said at least three members of the group were wearing masks that covered the lower half of their faces.
Wronski-Riley, who is also on the security team, said most of the crowd following the men stopped about midway up the street, but a few protesters gave chase. Wronski-Riley and a friend followed to make sure everyone came back safe. After running about another half block, the suspects started shooting.
"It was so busy and chaotic," Wronski-Riley said.
One wounded man had been shot in the back of the leg and was crawling in the street, Wronski-Riley said. Another, who had been shot in the arm, was yelling that his limb was numb and he needed help.
Some protesters criticized the police response time and said officers arrived in full riot gear. Officers aggressively pushed back on the crowd, Wronski-Riley said, at one point using a chemical irritant to keep people back.
"They can't kill the sense of community that I'm building," Wronski-Riley said. "And they can't stop us from making sure that black lives do matter."
Police did not answer questions about their response to the shootings or about their response to prior reports of suspicious behaviour.