Families from Minnesota and around the country who have lost loved ones to police violence stood together outside the Hennepin County Courthouse on Dec. 8, 2021 in support of the Wright family.
It was the first day of the trial of former police officer Kim Potter, who was charged with first and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11, 2021 shooting death of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center. The first witness testifying was Daunte’s mother, Katie Wright.
“Today I had a chance to witness the most emotional, intense, breathtaking thing that you ever wanna have to go through. And I would like y’all to just pray a little harder for this family,” said Bianca Austin to the crowd assembled outside after the day’s proceedings. Austin is the aunt of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by officers in her apartment in a botched police raid in Louisville, KY in March 2020. “It’s not easy. And they have to sit here and relive Daunte’s murder all over and be able to stand tall and tell his story. So prayers go to the Daunte Wright family. We stand in solidarity with you, and we will be rockin’ with y’all until this is over.”
Present were family members and close friends of Black men killed at the hands of law enforcement – Hardel Sherrell, George Floyd, Emmett Till, Philando Castile, Justin Teigen, and Leneal Frazier – as well as family of Jacob Blake, who was shot and paralyzed by a Kenosha, Wis.police officer in August 2020.
“Daunte Wright was a son, but he was also a father, and what you see here today is… Black fathers and uncles and brothers out here demanding justice for Daunte Wright and all stolen lives,” said Trahern Crews, of Black Lives Matter Minnesota.
George Floyd’s significant other, Courteney Ross, also spoke to the crowd.
“Kim Potter stole Daunte Wright’s life, she ripped his future away in one move,” she said. “Kim Potter left the Wright family with a lifetime of grief, trauma and sadness. She left his friends with emptiness and mistrust.”
Introducing Emmett Till’s cousin, Deborah Watts, Toshira Garraway Allen of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, said, “We know that these are racially motivated murders, and if you’re wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit, if you’re wearing a police uniform, or whether you wearin’ regular clothes, we know a racially motivated murder when we see one.” On Dec. 6, 2021 just two days prior, the U.S. Department of Justice closed a re-investigation into Emmett Till’s murder. Till was lynched in 1955 for allegedly flirting with a white woman. Watts is calling for his accuser, who is still alive, to be brought to justice.
Temperatures were in the teens as people gathered at Government Center Park. Demonstrators held up signs as a recording of “Justice for Daunte Wright” played on a speaker, and supporters lit luminaries as a show of solidarity. A brief march through downtown streets took place, with volunteer marshals in high visibility vests helping to maintain safety along the route. Street medics, supported by Justice Frontline Aid, pulled carts with water, snacks, handwarmers, face masks and hand sanitizer.
Rebecca Shumard said she flew in for a second time from Phoenix, Ariz. – the first being in April when she learned Mr. Wright was killed.
“He’s a year younger than my son, and it just broke my heart,” she said.
Carrying a Black Lives Matter flag, Minneapolis resident Keith McCarron said he was there to support the family. He also expressed frustration over Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson’s involvement in a car crash and DWI near Alexandria, Minn., reported the same day.
“[It’s] ironic that the Hennepin County sheriff is arrested for DWI, but nobody shot him to death. So, if you’re Black and you’re in the Metro area the smallest of offenses can lead to fatal consequences,” said McCarron. “And it’s horrible when you think about the original reasons for pulling [Daunte Wright] over was a dangling mirror ornament and expired tabs. I mean… seriously, there’s no way that, in a reasonable world, that escalates to gunfire.”
From a Dec. 8, 2021 statement posted on his Facebook page, Hutchinson wrote: “I made the inexcusable decision to drive after drinking alcohol and I am deeply sorry. As the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in Hennepin County, I am held to a higher standard. I regret the choice I made and apologize to the citizens I serve, the staff I work with, and the friends and family who support me.”
According to news reports, Hutchinson pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and on Dec. 20, 2021 was sentenced to two years probation.
As the rally drew to a close, Minnesota Justice Coalition President Johnathon McClellan called to uplift the family of Daunte Wright and continue to demand justice.
“We stand with the community. We stand with all those who came out demanding accountability and justice,” he said. “Because an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. And we cannot be silent.”
Kim Potter was found guilty of both counts of manslaughter on Dec. 23, 2021. She will be sentenced on Feb. 18.
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