On Monday night, the Brooklyn Center City Council passed a resolution banning the use of crowd control tactics like rubber bullets, protester kettling and tear gas. A mere 15 minutes later, the police were already breaking that rule, according to reports.
Videos show the police launching canisters of tear gas on protesting crowds on Monday night shortly after the rule was passed. The crowd was protesting the police-perpetrated killing of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man shot and killed by a police officer in the Minneapolis suburb this weekend.
Videos from later in the night show the police continuing to use the banned tear gas on protesters, spraying protesters with pepper spray and using stun guns to disperse the crowd. About 40 people were arrested at protests on Monday night, where crowds chanted Wright’s name and “no justice, no peace.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has said the state has called in “the largest police presence” in the state’s history to patrol the Twin Cities. He also implemented a curfew for the counties surrounding Brooklyn Center. Curfews implemented in other cities during last year’s Black Lives Matter uprisings caused organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union to call them unlawful, as the curfews were imposed to suppress protests.
Meanwhile, organizations like Amnesty International have found that police departments’ ongoing use of tear gas in the U.S. and abroad is “reckless and dangerous” and has injured and killed protesters.
The unrest in Brooklyn Center started on Sunday, when about 200 people gathered near the Brooklyn Center Police Department to protest Wright’s death. Wright was driving on Sunday afternoon with his girlfriend when he was pulled over by police officer Kim Potter.
Body camera footage shows Potter shouting “taser” before pulling a gun on Wright and shooting him. Wright then drove several blocks before crashing into another vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.
The police officer who shot Wright alleges that she had meant to pull out her taser but pulled out her gun instead. Many have cast doubt on that narrative, however; as news outlets like The New York Times have noted, tasers and the type of gun the officer killed Wright with feel very different in hand. They’re also typically worn on opposite sides of an officer’s hip to avoid confusion.
“Not. An. Accident. Why was this cop wanting to pull a taser on a 20-year old kid for expired tags in the first place? Absurd,” wrote leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington). “Impossible that a veteran cop couldn’t tell difference between taser and gun. We need real consequences for these killings.” Potter is a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
Others noted that, if even after extensive training, police can’t distinguish between a gun and a taser, then the system is flawed. There have been multiple similar incidents before, including in Minneapolis, where a police officer had supposedly meant to pull out a stun gun and instead shot someone.
“If someone has been a police officer for 26 years & can’t distinguish a gun from a taser, that’s a solid indication as any that training will do nothing & it’s time to abolish this relic of slavery,” said Bree Newsome Bass, racial advocate and artist, on Twitter.
As Corky Siemaszko wrote for NBC, though the police supposedly pulled Wright over for having air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror — which many have noted is a pretense for targeting Black people — Wright’s real “crime” that led to his death was driving while Black.
The Brooklyn Center City Council also voted on Monday to remove the current city manager and to recommend to the new city manager that the police chief and the officer who shot Wright be fired immediately. The new city manager said that Potter will be dismissed immediately.
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