Protesters ignored the heavy rain and curfew imposed by the Minnesota government on Monday (12) and took to the streets for the second consecutive night to protest the death of Daunte Wright, 20, a black man killed by police on Sunday (11) during a traffic violation approach.
Hundreds of people gathered again in front of the police department headquarters in Brooklyn Center, a city of 30,000 people less than 20 kilometers from where George Floyd was murdered last year.
The group displayed posters with phrases like “arrest all racist murderous cops”, “am I next?” and “without justice there is no peace”.
“The injustices that have occurred in the past 24 hours have been not only painful, but also calculated and methodical, without remorse or consideration for the pain that our community is experiencing collectively,” Matt Branch, one of the protesters, told the Star Tribune newspaper. “We are here today on behalf of Daunte and all the lives lost at the hands of the police.”
The agents erected a fence to keep the protesters at bay, but there were attacks from both sides: while part of the group threw bottles, stones and fireworks at the policemen, they responded with tear gas bombs and shots of non-lethal ammunition.
According to the Star Tribune, the police department also displayed, next to the American flag, another flag known as the “blue line”, which appeared as a symbol of support for the security forces but is also used by far-right groups and is seen by activists as a sign of opposition to the anti-racist movement.
A department store was vandalized, but most protesters left the streets at around 10 pm local time, three hours after the curfew imposed by Governor Tim Walz began to try to contain a possible escalation of violence.
According to the police, three officers suffered minor injuries when they were hit by objects thrown by the crowd. There are no official figures on the wounded among the protesters, but in Brooklyn Center 40 people were arrested for crimes such as curfew violations and incitement to riot. In Minneapolis, another 13 people were also arrested on charges of attacks on stores.
President Joe Biden called for cities to have “peace and calm” and authorized the dispatch of federal agents to the region. About a thousand National Guard soldiers patrolled the streets on Monday night, aiming to prevent acts similar to those that followed Floyd’s death – and that took thousands of people to the streets across the country – from being repeated.
Some parallels, however, are undeniable. The protesters, many of whom are linked to the Black Lives Matter movement (black lives matter), denounce structural racism and police violence that, according to statistics, disproportionately target and kill black men and women.
Floyd’s death, for example, came after a white policeman, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes, despite the witnesses who saw and filmed the scene and the pleas of the black man who warned: “I can not breath”.
The approach that led to Wright’s death was considered an “accident” by the Brooklyn Center police chief. The young man was stopped by the agents due to a traffic violation – the police say that the license plate on the vehicle was irregular and that there was a deodorizer hanging from the rearview mirror, which the state law prohibits.
Upon checking Wright’s documents, the police found that an arrest warrant was pending as a result of a court hearing he did not attend. According to the records, Wright was charged with an accusation of illegal possession of a gun and having fled the police in another approach last year.
The agents then gave Wright a voice of arrest and, according to images from the cameras attached to the police uniforms, were trying to handcuff him outside the vehicle. The video then indicates that there was some resistance on the part of Wright, who gets back into the car.
A female voice is heard shouting “taser, taser” —name given to the stun gun used to immobilize people on the run. According to the police department, however, an agent got confused and, instead of firing the taser, fired a weapon with lethal ammunition at Wright.
“Holy shit, I shot him,” says the same female voice.
According to witness records and reports, he still managed to drive for a few blocks until he crashed the car, unconscious. The police tried to revive him, but Wright was pronounced dead still at the scene.
According to the Department of Criminal Seizure (BCA), the agency that is investigating the case, the agent is Kimberly Potter, 48, a police officer with 26 years of experience in the corporation. Potter is now on administrative leave and should not return to work at least until the end of the investigation.
Protesters, as well as community members and civil rights groups, demand the immediate dismissal of Potter and Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon. At a news conference on Monday, Gannon said that “the police’s reaction and anguish” after the approach indicated that the shot that “resulted in Mr. Wright’s tragic death” was an “accidental shot”.
“I’m not in the head of the officer,” said Gannon. “I can only see what you are seeing [o vídeo que registrou a abordagem]. I can combine that with a lot of the training I received and that’s why I believe it’s an accidental shot. “
Medical examiners in Hennepin County, of which Brooklyn Center is a member, classified Wright’s death as a homicide, confirming from the autopsy results that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the chest.
“My heart is broken into a thousand pieces. I miss him so much, and it’s only been a day,” said Wright’s mother, Katie, during a vigil in honor of the young man, the father of a two-year-old boy. “He was my life, he was my son and I will never be able to get that back. Because of a mistake? Because of an accident?”
Tasers have different handles and are lighter than firearms. In many cases, they are produced in vibrant colors, usually yellow, but they can also be black – like those used by the Brooklyn Center police.
The city department’s manual of conduct advises officers to store tasers and firearms on different sides of the holster. The rule is that the revolver is on the policeman’s dominant side, and the taser on the opposite side. Thus, a right-handed agent, for example, has his revolver on the right side of the body and the taser on the left side, so that he would need to cross his arm to wield the stun gun.
Pete Orput, the Washington County District Attorney responsible for this case, said he is awaiting the BCA report to formalize a criminal charge later this Tuesday or Wednesday.
Wright’s death also added to the tension in Minnesota, which had already recorded demonstrations related to the trial of Chauvin, the police officer who appears with his knee on Floyd’s neck in the approach that led to his death.
The hearings, which began on March 29, have been following the expected route: emotional witnesses, doctors explaining details of the death and lawyers and prosecutors presenting their cases to the jury.
The main thesis of the prosecution against the former police officer is that the images of Floyd’s death leave no doubt that the act was a murder, while the defense claims that the victim may have died from other issues, including heart problems or overdose.
Chauvin’s defense even asked the judge to anticipate the isolation phase of the jurors so that they would not be influenced by the repercussions of Wright’s death, but the request was denied.