Tensions between protesters and police intensified for the second night in a row Monday, a day after a Brooklyn Center police officer fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz imposed a curfew from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. Tuesday for three counties that include Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, and the capital of St. Paul. “The largest police presence” in Minnesota history been called in to patrol around the Twin Cities, he said during a news conference earlier that day.
Crowds began gathering outside the Brooklyn Center police station Monday afternoon, with hundreds there by nightfall despite the governor’s dusk-to-dawn curfew. A drum beat incessantly, and the crowd broke into frequent chants of “Daunte Wright!” Some shouted obscenities at officers.
But about 90 minutes after the curfew deadline, police began firing gas canisters and flash-bang grenades in an attempt to drive them away, sending clouds wafting over the crowd and pushing some back at least briefly. Some protesters, wearing gas masks, picked up smoke canisters and threw them back toward police.
About 40 arrests were made ranging from curfew violation to rioting, Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said during a news conference early Tuesday. Some officers suffered minor injuries from thrown objects during the protests, Langer added A candlelight memorial for Wright, including a raised fist statue, was also erected where he was shot Monday night.
Demonstrations in New York City were relatively peaceful — protesters blocked roads and the Manhattan Bridge in solidarity, but no arrests were made.
“Prayers are not enough. Daunte Wright should still be with us. While an investigation is underway, our nation needs justice and healing, and Daunte’s family needs to know why their child is dead—they deserve answers.” Vice President Kamala Harris said on Twitter amidst protests across the country.
During a news conference Monday, the Brooklyn Center Police Department released body camera footage of the incident that took place in a Minneapolis suburb about 10 miles from where George Floyd died in police custody last May.
Wright was shot once and died after the traffic stop, police Chief Tim Gannon said. Body cam footage showed two other officers approaching Wright’s car and the officer who fired the shot standing behind them.
As the officer on the driver side of the vehicle began to handcuff Wright, he broke free, a struggle ensued, and Wright jumped back into the driver’s seat. An officer threatened to tase him, shouting, “Taser!” at least three times before shooting Wright, then saying, “Oh (expletive), I just shot him.”
The car drove away, traveling several blocks before hitting another vehicle. Wright’s death, which set off protests and unrest Sunday night, was ruled a homicide by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.
During the news conference, community members watching from the lobby of the Police Department headquarters expressed their anger as others protested outside.
“This is murder. This is white supremacy. Who’s going to stand up for our ancestors who built this land but are still kept down?” said Jonathan Mason, a community activist.
In a statement, NAACP National President Derrick Johnson said Wright “should be alive today.”
“Whether it be carelessness and negligence, or a blatant modern-day lynching, the result is the same. Another Black man has died at the hands of police,” Johnson said. Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott called the shooting “deeply tragic” and said the officer should be fired. He later announced that the city council had voted to give his office “command authority” over the police department.
This “will streamline things and establish a chain of command and leadership,” he wrote on Twitter. He also said the city manager had been fired, and that the deputy city manager would take over his duties. Brooklyn Center is a modest suburb just north of Minneapolis that has seen its demographics shift dramatically in recent years. In 2000, more than 70% of the city was white. Today, a majority of residents are Black, Asian or Latino.
Organizers from the Movement for Black Lives, a national coalition of more than 150 Black-led political and advocacy groups, pointed to Wright’s killing as yet another reason why cities must take up proposals for defunding an “irreparably broken, racist system.”
“The fact that police killed him just miles from where they murdered George Floyd last year is a slap in the face to an entire community,” said Karissa Lewis, the coalition’s national field director.