Residents of Minneapolis Suburb Rise Up Against Police Killing of Daunte Wright

Following the police-perpetrated killing of a 20-year-old Black man in the Twin Cities suburb of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, hundreds of residents demonstrated outside of the police headquarters and throughout the city Sunday night into Monday morning.

About 200 protesters near police department headquarters on Sunday chanted the name of Daunte Wright, who police shot to death hours earlier.

Police responded to the protests against police-perpetrated violence with flash bangs and tear gas to disperse the crowd, claiming rocks were thrown at the building during the uprising. Gov. Tim Walz (D-Minnesota) deployed the National Guard to the area. Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott placed a curfew on the city until 6 am Monday morning.

Police reportedly pulled Wright over just before 2 pm Central Time on Sunday in Brooklyn Center. Wright’s mother told reporters that her son had called her to get information about the vehicle’s insurance, as his family gave the car to Wright just two weeks prior.

Wright’s mother said her son was pulled over for having air fresheners on his rearview mirror.

Police allege Wright tried to reenter his vehicle after being confronted over an outstanding warrant. The officer then shot Wright, who drove several blocks before crashing into another vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

While it is technically against state law to hang objects from the mirror of a moving car, the Minnesota branch of the American Civil Liberties Union expressed “deep concerns that police here appear to have used dangling air fresheners as an excuse for making a pretextual stop, something police do all too often to target Black people.”

During a press conference on Monday, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon alleged that the police-perpetrated killing was accidental.

“As I watch the video and listen to the officer’s commands, it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their taser but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” Gannon said. “This appears to me, from what I viewed and the officer’s reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge, that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright.”

Many on social media did not accept that rationale as acceptable. Ben Passer, lead director of Energy Access and Equity at the Minnesota-based clean energy nonprofit Fresh Energy, opined on the matter, saying that Wright’s killing being an accident “doesn’t make it any better.”

“The power to end a life shouldn’t rest in the hands of a single officer’s careless decision. An accident shouldn’t result in the loss of life,” Passer said.

Simon Balto, a professor of Black studies at the University of Iowa, noted the significance of the police-perpetrated killing taking place during the ongoing trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who killed George Floyd last year after kneeling on his neck for several minutes.

“Daunte Wright was killed in the Twin Cities for the same reason that George Floyd was killed in the Twin Cities: because the first language of police and the organizing principle of policing is violence, and because white supremacy is a structuring element of the whole system,” Balto said on Twitter.

There is vast support across the country for defunding police departments and shifting funding to nonviolent alternatives to policing. A Data for Progress poll published earlier this month, for example, found that 65 percent of voters in the U.S. would support “reallocating some of law enforcement budgets to support such non-police first responder programs.”

Support for such measures reaches across partisan lines, with majorities of Democratic- and Republican-leaning respondents in the poll backing the idea of reallocating police funding toward such programs.