By David Bailey
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Minneapolis police early on Thursday cleared an encampment protesters set up outside a police station following the mid-November fatal shooting of a black man by an officer, police said.
Demonstrators had built barricades at both ends of the city block in front of the station, placing portable fire pits and gas heaters on the street for warmth and erecting tents for an around-the-clock protest of the shooting of Jamar Clark, 24.
About 50 demonstrators were at the encampment when police gave verbal orders and a written notice to disperse just before 4 a.m. local time, police said. Within 15 minutes, police began to dismantle the camp.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said seven people were arrested for obstructing the legal process and one for trespassing. There were no injuries, she told a news conference.
Protesters have sought the release of videos from Clark's Nov. 15 shooting, which came at a time of heightened debate in the United States over police use of lethal force, especially against black people. They also want a special prosecutor.
Those arrested were free within hours and protesters plan to demonstrate on Thursday afternoon at Minneapolis City Hall, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis said in a statement.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, U.S. Representative Keith Ellison and some African-American community leaders on Monday called for an end to the encampment, though not the protests, citing in part safety concerns.
"It is time to pivot to a moment of working together," Hodges told a news conference on Thursday, describing the protesters' withdrawal as peaceful.
Harteau said police began preparations once it became clear demonstrators would not withdraw. Police secured the station with fencing and will facilitate protests, but not allow a new occupation, she said.
Protests have focused on the precinct since Clark's shooting, with some confrontations between police and demonstrators that included spray-painting the building.
Five protesters, all African-American men aged 19 to 43, were shot late on Nov. 23 near the camp after an altercation with men prosecutors said had gone there to cause trouble.
Prosecutors called the shooting racially motivated and charged three white men and an Asian man with riot. The shooting suspect was charged with five counts of second-degree assault.
(Additional reporting by Kristoffer Tigue; Editing by Dan Grebler)