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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Explained: The protests near Minneapolis following death of Daunte Wright

Hundreds of protesters clashed with riot police in Brooklyn Center near Minneapolis last week after a 20-year-old Black man, identified as Daunte Wright, was shot dead by the police.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: April 13, 2021 10:42:09 am
Police fire dispersants into a crowd of protesters outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, late Sunday, April 11, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)

On Sunday, hundreds of protesters clashed with riot police in Brooklyn Center near Minneapolis hours after a 20-year-old Black man was shot dead by the police. The crowd had gathered in Brooklyn Center where the trial of Derek Chauvin, who has been accused of killing George Floyd, is also taking place.

Tim Walz, Minnesota’s governor, said on Twitter, “I am closely monitoring the situation in Brooklyn Center…” He added, “As our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.”

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What happened in Minneapolis?

Brooklyn Center police officers pulled over a vehicle shortly before 2 pm on Sunday afternoon for a traffic violation. After the check, the driver, Daunte Wright, attempted to get back into his vehicle as police officers tried to take him into custody. The incident culminated in an officer shooting Wright.

According to local reports, Wright continued to drive for a few blocks before he crashed into another vehicle.

“Officers and medical personnel performed lifesaving measures but the driver was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. A female passenger was taken to the hospital with injuries that weren’t life-threatening,” the StarTribune reported.

In a press conference on Monday, Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon said the officer who shot Wright, identified as Kim Potter, mistook her gun for a Taser. Footage from a body camera showed Potter pointing her gun at Wright and saying she was going to use her Taser. As the car sped away, Potter can be heard saying, “Holy shit, I just shot him”, reported Wall Street Journal.

What is the reason for increasing tensions in Minneapolis?

The incident happened nearly a year after George Floyd, 46, died after Minneapolis Police Officer Chauvin pressed his knee onto him neck. The allegation against Floyd was related to his passing a counterfeit bill. A 911 call was made on May 25, 2020 by someone who reported that a man bought merchandise from Cup Foods in Minneapolis and presented a $20 counterfeit bill. Floyd’s death sparked the “Black Lives Matter” protests across the world.

Chauvin’s trial began late last month and he is the first police officer out of the four involved in the case to be tried. He faces the most severe charges, which include manslaughter and second-degree murder. The other three officers are Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kueng. Significantly, in a first for the state of Minnesota (where the trial is taking place) the trial is being recorded and broadcast live for the general public.

Other deaths involving the police force using excessive force against Black Americans include the 2016 killing of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old man who was shot seven times at close range during a traffic stop, also in Minnesota, just after he had informed the police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, that he was carrying a gun. Yanez was acquitted of all charges in 2017. The incident became viral after Castile’s girlfriend streamed part of it on Facebook.

Another incident from 2016 that caused a furore was when police pinned to the ground and shot 37-year-old Alton Sterling outside a convenience store in Louisiana where he was selling CDs. Another case is the killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician in Louisville, Kentucky, who was shot dead by local police officers in her home in March 2020 during what the police claim was a mistaken drug raid.

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