Minnesota protests continue over police killing of Black man

Hundreds of demonstrators face off with police in Brooklyn Center as officer resigns over Daunte Wright shooting.

Demonstrators take cover from crowd-dispersal munitions from police outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Tuesday [John Minchillo/AP]
Demonstrators take cover from crowd-dispersal munitions from police outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Tuesday [John Minchillo/AP]

Protests continued for a third night in Brooklyn Center in the US state of Minnesota following the death of Duante Wright, a Black man who was shot by a white police officer during a traffic stop.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered on Tuesday at the heavily guarded police headquarters where police in riot gear and National Guard soldiers stood watch.

After nightfall, scores of protesters lobbed bottles and other projectiles over a fence in front of police headquarters.

State police declared the gathering unlawful and ordered the crowds to disperse ahead of a 10pm curfew. The announcement set off clashes between the police officers and protesters.

Demonstrators launched fireworks and threw objects at police, who launched tear gas, non-lethal rounds, and flash-bang rounds and tried to force back the crowd, US media reported.

Resignations

The third night of protests was held on the same day as the Minneapolis police officer who fatally wounded 20-year-old Wright, and the police chief who called the killing an apparent accident both resigned in the face of civil unrest.

The mayor of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, said the two quit one day after the chief told news reporters the officer who shot Wright appeared to have drawn her gun by mistake when reaching for her Taser.

Mayor Mike Elliott said the City Council passed a resolution calling for the dismissal of both Chief Tim Gannon, and the officer, Kim Potter.

“I’m hoping this will bring some calm to the community,” Elliott said, adding he had yet to accept Potter’s resignation, leaving open the door to firing her. “We want to send a message to the community that we are taking this situation seriously.”

Elliott expressed sympathy with protesters, who he said were motivated by fear rather than lawlessness.

“What I saw was young people, many of whom looked – all of them look like Daunte,” said Elliott. “And I could feel their pain. I could feel their anger. I can feel their fear.”

A police officer holds a tear gas launcher while standing guard at the Brooklyn Center Police Department [Leah Millis/Reuters]

Terminating Potter’s employment, rather than allowing her to resign, could adversely affect the 26-year veteran’s pension and ability to find future work in law enforcement.

The move followed two nights of protests and clashes between demonstrators and police in Brooklyn Center, part of a region already on edge over the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis policeman charged with murdering George Floyd last May.

Floyd, 46, who died in handcuffs with his neck pinned to the street under Chauvin’s knee, became the face of national protests against racism and police brutality that swept the US last summer.

Dozens of people were arrested in Brooklyn Center on Sunday and Monday nights amid looting and clashes between activists and police.

Reporting from Brooklyn Center, Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher said: “You can see the anger in the community here is not disappearing, even with those resignations. They want to see something more significant, something more substantial.

“We’ve seen people here throw bottles and stones at police cars driving by. Then the police declared this an unlawful assembly, that is when we started to see the tear gas and the police moving in in significant numbers.”

‘I just shot him’

As the mayor spoke earlier on Tuesday, Wright’s relatives and supporters assembled near the Minneapolis courthouse where Chauvin is standing trial, and recounted for reporters the anguish of his death.

Wright, who struggled with a learning disability and dropped out of high school, was remembered as a good-natured, loving man who worked multiple jobs to support his two-year-old son.

Floyd’s two brothers appeared at the news conference along with Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, who embraced Wright’s mother, Katie, and said she had once taught Wright in school.

Wright’s deadly encounter began when police pulled him over in his car for what they said was an expired auto registration.

According to Gannon, officers then discovered a warrant for his arrest in their system. When Wright broke away from one officer and climbed back into his car in an apparent bid to flee, the second officer, since identified as Potter, accidentally drew her pistol instead of her Taser and opened fire, he said.

An autopsy found Wright was struck once in the chest. Potter can be heard on police video shouting: “Holy s***, I just shot him.”

The car then rolled away with Wright still in the driver’s seat until it struck another vehicle and came to a stop.

Activists raise their arms as they confront law enforcement officers in Brooklyn Center [Nick Pfosi/Reuters]

The recollections of Wright’s mother and other relatives focused on his last moments.

Katie Wright said her son called her after he was pulled over, and that she offered to mediate with police over the phone. She said she heard police order her son, who seemed confused, out of his vehicle, followed by the sound of scuffling and an officer telling him to hang up the phone.

She said Wright’s girlfriend, who was with him in the car, eventually picked up the phone and, amid cries and screams, told her he had been shot.

“She pointed the phone toward the driver’s seat and my son was laying there, unresponsive,” Katie Wright recalled, weeping. “That was the last time that I’ve seen my son.”

Wright was killed just 16km (10 miles) from where Floyd died while under arrest for allegedly passing a fake $20 bill.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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