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Community leaders outraged at alleged police assault
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Bill Means says mediation between the city of Minneapolis and community groups over police treatment of suspects will continue in the wake of the new allegation. (MPR Photo/Brandt Williams)
Community activists in Minneapolis expressed outrage Wednesday over allegations of police brutality by Minneapolis police officers. Minneapolis police have asked the FBI to investigate the allegation. Members of groups which represent communities of color say they believe an African-American male suspect was sexually assaulted while in custody Monday afternoon. The activists are demanding a federal civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis department.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Several of the community leaders who spoke out against the incident are members of a negotiation team involved with federal mediation with the police department. The mediation was sparked by several high profile incidents, in which police officers were involved in the deaths of people of color and people with mental illness.

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Image Spike Moss and Randy Staten

Bill Means, the chief negotiator for the mediation process, says this latest allegation will not derail the mediation.

"We want to make it clear that we intend to go forth with the process. This is the exact type of crime that has not only initiated the process, but calls out for continued deliberations," says Means.

The alleged victim is a 25-year-old black male with numerous prior arrests dating back to 1996, including weapons violations, controlled substance possession and auto theft.

Tensions were running high in the board room of the Minneapolis Urban League, where the group announced its response after meeting Police Chief Robert Olson. Several times during the press conference, members of the group lashed out at the media.

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Image Jerry McAfee

State Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, cautioned the members of the media about focusing on the criminal record of the man who accused police of abusing him.

"The background of the individual of this case -- the victim -- is irrelevant. The issue is the conduct of officials in a public safety role," said Ellis.

Chief Robert Olson would not comment on the allegations because the matter is under FBI investigation. However, he says in light of the serious allegations, he says he's glad the group will keep the lines of communication open.

They're the only community that we have, and we're the only police department they have. And we have to work together. Because if we don't, that's unacceptable.
- Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson

"They're the only community that we have, and we're the only police department they have," said Olson. "And we have to work together. Because if we don't, that's unacceptable."

The activists are calling for the incident to be classified as a hate crime. They want the officers to face the strongest penalties possible, if they are found guilty of brutality.

However, some community leaders are asking the public to withhold judgment until the investigation is complete.

"You don't want to jump to conclusions, just because you hear of something and you don't have all of the facts in front of you," says Rev. Jerry McAfee, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church. "You don't want to do that and be irresponsible. So often we're tried and convicted at the same time. We don't want to do that to other people. We want to get it all in. Once we do that, then we make a decision."

The activists say they will hold meetings in the next few days to present anti-police brutality action plans to members of their respective communities. They also announced plans for a march and rally next week, which will start in both north and south Minneapolis and converge on the federal courthouse downtown from both neighborhoods.

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