BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — Communities across the nation marched and mourned for the third consecutive night Tuesday in memory of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by a police officer after a traffic stop over the weekend.
Police and protesters faced off again in Brooklyn Center after nightfall, with hundreds of protesters gathered in the city’s heavily guarded police headquarters, now ringed by concrete barriers and a tall metal fence, and where police in riot gear and National Guard soldiers stood watch. “Murderapolis” was scrawled with black spray paint on a concrete barrier.
“Whose street? Our street!” the crowd chanted under a light snowfall.
About 90 minutes before the curfew deadline, state police announced over a loudspeaker that the gathering had been declared unlawful and ordered the crowds to disperse. That quickly set off confrontations, with protesters launching fireworks toward the station and throwing objects at police, who launched flashbangs and gas grenades, and then marched in a line to force back the crowd.
“You are hereby ordered to disperse,” authorities announced, warning that anyone not leaving would be arrested. The state police said the dispersal order came before the 10 p.m. curfew because protesters were trying to take down the fencing and throwing rocks at police. The number of protesters dropped rapidly over the next hour, until only a few remained. Police also ordered all media members to leave the scene and threatened them with arrest.
At least one person was injured when police fired crowd control munitions, video showed.
In a news conference early Wednesday, Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said about 60 people were arrested in connection to the Brooklyn Center protests ranging from “riot and criminal behaviors” and urged the public for help.
“It is not acceptable and it will not be tolerated if you choose to do criminal activity and destroy property and throw objects and make it unsafe for people to come and exercise their First Amendment rights.”
“Brooklyn Center passed a resolution banning unnecessary crowd control measures intended to stifle protest including rubber bullets, teargas and kettling,” the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in Minnesota said on Twitter. “We urge all law enforcement agencies there to follow this policy and remember honoring the Constitution is part of your job.”
Across town, more than two dozen prayed and paid respects in the freezing weather at the memorial erected Monday night where Wright was killed — a giant, rust-brown sculpture of a clenched fist, surrounded by flower bouquets, messages and candles.
Samuel Howell, 65, from Princeton, Minnesota, fell to his knees and began to weep at the sight. He told USA TODAY that he is a former cop from San Bernardino, California, but that his son-in-law is Black.
“I just think, ‘What if it was him?’” he said. “‘Or my grandchildren?’ Lives are precious.”
Two women comforted and hugged him, saying that “we’ll get through this together.”
“The whole community feels helpless,” said Katie Russell, 34, from Brooklyn Park. “All we can do right now is comfort each other.”
As Brooklyn Center mourned, other cities around the country started to protest.
Several dozen people marched through downtown Chicago Tuesday evening, calling for justice for Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy fatally shot by a Chicago police officer at the end of March. According to videos of the demonstration shared on social media, protesters could be heard chanting: “Say his name, Daunte Wright!”
Lamar Whitfield of the No More Foundation, organized in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a police officer in Minneapolis, said by standing in solidarity, activists will be taken seriously by officials.
In Columbus, Ohio, protesters got into the police headquarters, which was locked with handcuffs, according to student newspaper The Lantern. Police deployed pepper spray as they tried to get inside.
Dozens of people marched in downtown Sacramento, California, facing off with police at a shopping complex there, according to local media FOX-40.
Around 50 people held a vigil for Wright in Seattle, Washington. Police arrested one for chalk drawing, a practice banned in the city.
In Dallas, Texas, protesters blocked roads. As protesters marched to the Portland Police Association in Oregon, they set off fireworks and police declared a riot, according to Twitter video. And in Philadelphia, more than 200 people marched.
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Earlier Tuesday, fficer Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the police force, submitted her letter of resignation, Mayor Mike Elliott said in a news conference. He said the city did not ask her to resign but had been moving toward firing her.
“I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately,” Potter wrote in the letter, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Police Chief Tim Gannon also resigned Tuesday. Cmdr. Tony Gruenig, who has been with the department for 19 years, will take over as acting chief.
A decision on whether prosecutors will charge Potter could come as soon as Wednesday. The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association said in a statement that “no conclusions should be made until the investigation is complete.”
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension identified Potter as the officer who shot Wright on Sunday. The Hennepin County medical examiner said Wright died of a gunshot wound to the chest and ruled his death a homicide.
Gannon said he believed Potter mistook her firearm for her Taser when she shot Wright. The department released body camera footage of the incident during which Potter shouted “Taser” several times before firing, then expressed surprise upon realizing she had shot Wright.
Wright’s family called for the officer to be held accountable in an emotional news conference with civil rights attorney Ben Crump on Tuesday.
“I hope that since she went ahead and she resigned that they hold her at the highest (accountability) because she was the law,” said Wright’s aunt, Naisha Wright.
Crump said he was stunned when he heard that another Black man had been killed at the hands of police not far from where former police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial in George Floyd’s death.
“If you told me and I didn’t see little Daunte’s face and his mother and grandmother crying, I wouldn’t believe it,” Crump said alongside the Wright and Floyd families.
Crump said he thought that during the trial, “police would be on their best behavior, that they would exercise the greatest standard of care, that they would concentrate on de-escalation in a way they have never concentrated in America.”
Katie Wright, Daunte’s mother, called the day her son died “the worst day of my life.” She described the phone call she received as he was pulled over and how, after he was shot, the woman in the passenger seat of the car video-called her – and she saw her son lifeless in the driver seat.
Meanwhile, the cities of Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis and St. Paul imposed 10 p.m. curfews.
Wright’s death on Sunday has shaken a nation already unsettled by a series of police killings.
Floyd died about 10 miles away during a police arrest last May, an incident that led to nationwide protests calling for an end to racial injustice and police brutality.
About a six-hour drive from where Wright died, the Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer who shot Jacob Blake, a Black man who was paralyzed from the waist down after the shooting in August, has returned to regular duty and won’t face any administrative discipline.
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On Tuesday, Chief Daniel Miskinis issued a news release on Twitter stating that Rusten Sheskey has also been cleared of breaking any internal policies, and has been back on duty after months of administrative leave since March 31.
Contributing: Grace Hauck, Ryan W. Miller, Erik Ferkenhoff and Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY; Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; The Associated Press