Flowers have been stacked carefully around the memorial—dots of color against a dreary backdrop. Despite the drizzle, a group is gathered in the street. News cameras circle Mike Elliott, the city’s first Black mayor, and Wright’s family. But journalists are asked to give them space.
On Sunday afternoon at 1:47, Wright was killed by a white police officer during a traffic stop. He was 20 years old.
This week, the wooden fist, which once stood in George Floyd Square, was transported—along with its base—from south Minneapolis to this quiet suburban street. On Wednesday evening, a Black woman with four kids leaves the memorial in tears. An old white Army veteran offers her an embrace. As they pull back from the hug, she says, “We have to do better.”
On Wednesday night, the curfew in Brooklyn Center starts at 10. The street in front of the police department remains blocked off. Operation Safety Net—the multi-agency police force assembled in Minneapolis for the Derek Chauvin trial—has widened.
Police in riot gear stand behind shields and a tall fence. Every few minutes, they fire marking rounds and flash-bangs through the fence and into the crowd. On Monday, the Brooklyn Center City Council banned the use of tear gas, according to the Sahan Journal, but it continues to fill the air. The chemical weapon, banned from war by the Geneva Convention, blurs vision, burns skin, and leaves protesters gasping for air.
“If you do not cease your unlawful behavior and disperse,” a woman’s voice says over a loudspeaker, “you will be arrested.”
The protests, largely youth-led, have turned out thousands. Crowdfunded goggles and gas masks are handed out in the streets. People write phone numbers for bail funds on each other’s arms. On the front line, Black teenagers are under fire. Medics care for the wounded. A group of protesters maneuver behind a wall of umbrellas—a makeshift shield that moves as one. On small wooden barricades, they’ve written F12 (code for “Fuck the Police.”).
Throughout the night, protesters chant Daunte Wright’s name. On Monday, while the Chauvin trial took a lunch break, former Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon released the body cam footage of Kim Potter, a 26-year police veteran, shooting Wright in the front seat of his car. In the clip, Wright flees his arrest. Potter, previously president of the city’s police union, shouts, “Taser!” before shooting him in the chest with her firearm.
In 2019, Potter was the first to arrive at the scene after two Brooklyn Center police officers killed Kobe Heisler, a young man with autism who was having a mental health crisis. In late 2020, the Star Tribune dubbed Brooklyn Center police a “reform model.” Before George Floyd was killed, the paper said the same thing about the Minneapolis PD.
On Tuesday, Potter and Gannon resigned. Local activist and artist Touissant Morrison posted on Instagram:
had been alive.
On Wednesday afternoon, Potter was charged with second-degree manslaughter.
The Hennepin County jail in downtown Minneapolis sits just outside the heavily guarded Government Center where Chauvin is on trial. Potter passed through the jail on Wednesday; she was held for a few hours before posting $100,000 bail. This afternoon, she has her first court appearance, via Zoom. In the same jail, teenagers facing riot charges are being held without bail.
On Wednesday morning, Operation Safety Net tweeted out its arrest stats for the night before. On Instagram, #OperationSafetyNet posted a PowerPoint slide of “Encouraged Activity,” including “peaceful assembly,” “marching (not on a freeway),” and “remaining in public areas.” Earlier in the week, when they’d tweeted that crowds were launching bricks and projectiles at police, a CNN reporter clapped back.
This week, in the courtroom near the jail, the prosecution for Chauvin rested its case. On Monday afternoon, Floyd’s brother cried while he testified. The defense declined to cross-examine him. On Tuesday, the Floyd and Wright families held a press conference outside the Hennepin County Government Center’s fortified walls. Later that same day, Chauvin’s defense began.
When Chauvin was first charged, he agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder. Then–US Attorney General William Barr rejected the deal. Making his case now, Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson is reminiscent of Trump’s defense lawyers, fumbling on behalf of a guilty white man. But Nelson is not trying to prove Chauvin’s innocence—just cast reasonable doubt.
After Daunte Wright’s death, the community demanded answers. During a press conference, Gannon was asked why Wright’s body was left on the ground for hours, like Michael Brown’s was in Ferguson. The reason for the traffic stop and Wright’s outstanding warrant were debated. Expired tags? Air freshener? Missed court date? Mis-mailed court notice? A marijuana charge?
Another 15 minutes north of Brooklyn Center, a police car sits in the driveway of Potter’s large, suburban home. “No parking” signs dot the neighborhood. Around her house, tall fences have been erected. caution: lasers in use, a sign warns. Inside the fence, two police officers stand guard. A few doors down, a Black boy plays basketball in his driveway.
Early Wednesday evening, one of us drives circles around Potter’s neighborhood while the other walks up to the gate. The officer on duty says we can take photographs—but preferably not of their faces. If a photo of your face gets published, he says, you owe the department a pie. “Pie laws,” he calls them.
A white pickup truck labeled Community Service drives by and he urges us to get them on pie laws. After we snap a photo, he yells to the truck, “We like strawberry!”
In front of Potter’s house, Daunte Wright’s name is in chalk. Below it, someone has written:
black lives matter.
“I have loved every minute of being a police officer,” Potter wrote in her resignation letter.
In Minneapolis Wednesday night, there is no curfew. Still, the city is boarded up and quiet. Driving back from Potter’s house, rain taps the windshield. On the streets, National Guard tanks idle. Pairs of soldiers with rifles stand on sidewalks and street corners. Three gather below the awning of a taco truck. As we take a video, one waves.
On Monday, closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin case are expected. The same day, students have planned a statewide school walkout from 1 to 1:47 pm, the time Wright was killed.
The drizzle and clouds are forecast to continue. On Monday, there is a chance of snow.