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Protesters, police clash for third straight night in wake of Daunte Wright’s death

Protesters, police clash for third straight night in wake of Daunte Wright’s death

by Kim Hyatt, Andy Mannix and Liz Sawyer | Star Tribune  |  Published on April 14, 2021

Law enforcement moved in with heavy force against hundreds of protesters outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department Tuesday night, bringing the third straight evening of mass demonstrations over the police killing of Daunte Wright to a dramatic ending.

The protests began peacefully at 4:30 p.m., with activists gathering in droves in front of the police station and demanding that state officials appoint an independent investigation into Kimberly Potter, the Brooklyn Center officer who shot Wright during a traffic stop Sunday.

Activist and attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong told the crowd that she recently spoke to Gov. Tim Walz about introducing nine police reform bills to the Legislature, including ending qualified immunity, the legal principle that makes it difficult to sue police officers individually.

“Ending qualified immunity is an example … to stop killing people on the taxpayer’s dollars. … We want an independent body to investigate police killings and not the BCA,” she said, referring to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The crowd marched to the nearby FBI Field Office, where speakers continued to demand justice for Wright through a megaphone, and then back to the police station.

After the rally, as night fell, an estimated 800 to 1,000 protesters remained outside the station. Dozens of police officers in riot gear, along with National Guard members, stood on the other side of a large metal fence erected around the perimeter of the station earlier this week. Some National Guard members were stationed on the roof of the building.

As members of the crowd shouted and shook the fence, police began deploying flash-bang grenades. Protesters responded by throwing objects such as water bottles back, striking some officers on their helmets.

The Minnesota State Patrol declared the group unlawful around 8:30 p.m. Scores of troopers moved toward the crowd, firing riot gas, projectiles and more flash-bangs.

A woman stuck her head out of an apartment window and screamed that tear gas was wafting into her home, where her kids live, begging the officers to stop. Many protesters refused to leave, and troopers continued to advance with a show of force, pushing the crowd north. Dozens of National Guard trucks and Humvees were parked along a street just north of the station just after 9 p.m., with more sitting idle on side streets. Law enforcement officers took many into custody shortly afterward.

At a midnight news conference, the multiagency security force Operation Safety Net, displayed bricks, cans, bottles of alcohol and other items that were thrown at officers Tuesday night.

“The intent of hurting others is just unacceptable and needs to stop,” said State Patrol Chief Matt Langer. He said “upward” of 60 people were arrested Tuesday night for riot and other criminal behaviors.

No looting or confirmed burglaries of businesses were reported in Minneapolis on Tuesday night, said Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Amelia Huffman.

Looters broke into businesses in Brooklyn Center and parts of Minneapolis on Sunday and Monday nights.

Since Sunday, hundreds of protesters, reeling from news of Wright’s killing, have gathered outside the stationhouse in a show of solidarity against police violence toward Black people.

Potter fatally shot Wright during a traffic stop Sunday; Police Chief Tim Gannon said she appeared to mistake her gun for a Taser. On Monday, Brooklyn Center police officials released body-camera video showing Potter grabbing her sidearm and shooting Wright as he appeared to try to flee in his car during the stop.

In response to protesters calling for justice, Potter and Gannon resigned Tuesday.

“Because you all showed up, Kim Potter doesn’t have a job anymore,” activist Toussaint Morrison told the crowd. “Kim Potter was a police officer longer than Daunte was alive. … You can’t tell me that was an accident.”

State Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul, told the crowd that a traffic stop should not amount to a “death sentence.”

The standoffs have ended in forcible dispersals every night since Sunday. As word traveled through social media about Wright’s shooting, a large crowd amassed on the station lawn that evening, shouting obscenities at officers and demanding justice for Wright.

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