A Year After Police Killed Daunte Wright, Minneapolis Is Still Resisting

On Monday, 100 people gathered in Brooklyn Center neighborhood near Minneapolis to remember Daunte Wright, one year after the young Black man died when Kim Potter, a local police officer shot and killed him. Potter shot Wright at a traffic stop. He was convicted and sentenced for manslaughter.

Wright’s killing set off a wave of protests and unrest in the suburb less than a year after the murder of George Floyd by police on a crowded Minneapolis street corner sparked a nationwide uprising against systemic racism and police violence.

On Monday, after a moment of silence marking the 20 years of Wright’s life, his immediate family placed candles on a memorial that now stands where Wright crashed his car and died after being shot.

Jeanette Rupert is a nurse, reverend, and nurse. activist from Minneapolis who has supported families of those slain by police, told the crowd that change is being made through Wright’s legacy, and his life will not be forgotten.

“We will continue to make change and use our gifts to implement change,” Rupert said. “What are you going to do to make sure this family stays uplifted, and other families of stolen lives?”

About 10 miles away, the intersection where Floyd was brutally murdered by former officer Derek Chauvin as other cops looked on — and the birthplace of an uprising that would spread across the nation — remains a permeant memorial and meeting space free of police.

Banner and signs with Amir Locke’s name have been added to “George Floyd Square” since early February, when the 22-year-old became the latest victim of police violence in Minneapolis after being shot and killed by a SWAT team during a no-knock raid on an apartment where he was sleeping on the couch. Locke was not the subject of the police investigation. He was sleeping with a legally owned gun while he was being investigated by SWAT. The community has been furious for weeks over the release of initial police press that incorrectly identified Locke, as well as body camera footage from the raid and the deadly shooting.

A sign honoring Amir Locke, the young Black man recently killed by police during a no knock raid in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is now part of the memorial known as “George Floyd Square.”
A sign honoring Amir Locke, the young Black man recently killed by police during a no knock raid in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is now part of the memorial known as “George Floyd Square.”

The trauma experienced by Minneapolis’ Black community is evident around George Floyd Square. There are dozens of mock gravestones containing the names of Black victims of police brutality that fill large green spaces. Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Amir Locke, Sandra Bland, Tanya Blanding, Troy Robinson, Atatiana Jefferson…the list goes on.

George Floyd Square remains a key part of the movement’s Minneapolis roots. It hosts two meetings per day for community members and activists to organize. Local activists shared their stories Truthout These meetings are an important organizing center that has inspired many grassroots projects across a city that has emerged a leader in the fight against racist policing.

Despite the fact that there is less media coverage, political setbacks, and right-wing backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement at the national level, the movement is still strong in Minneapolis.

Daunte Wright's immediate family gather to observe the one-year anniversary of Wright's killing by police in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
Daunte Wright’s immediate family gather to observe the one-year anniversary of Wright’s killing by police in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Protesters responded by protesting the murder of Locke taking to the streetsResidents of the city spent two years discussing proposals to defund or abolish the police department. This raised deep questions about the systemic roots and violence of poverty and violence. Who feels safer with police around?

Minneapolis voters rejected a ballot initiative to dissolve the Minneapolis Police Department and create a new public safety division that offers a range of services and responders, in addition to armed police. Proponents claimed that the initiative would have removed institutional obstacles to police funding reappropriation and directed it to other services such as trained experts to deal with a mental health crisis or overdose.

Supporters claimed the debate over the ballot was marred by misinformation, but still received 60,000 votes or around 43 percent. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey opposed the ballot question, and has been subject to fervent criticism for failing police violence prevention. He was challenged by two progressives, but he held on to his office by a slim margin.

Mock graves representing Black people slain by police in a greenspace near George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 11, 2022.
Mock graves of Black people were slain in Minneapolis, Minnesota by police on April 11, 2022.

Facing mounting pressure from activists over the failure of previous reforms to prevent the death of Locke and statements allegedly misrepresented changes to the city’s no-knock warrant policy, Frey recently placedNo-knock warrants have been banned. This is a common type of no-knock warrant, where a team or police officers enter a residence unannounced. According to reports, the new policy allows police to still enter a residence by knocking repeatedly, announcing that they are there, and waiting 20 seconds during the daytime hours or 30 at night.

Twin Cities activists are frustrated at the slow pace of reform and remain mistrustful of the police and residents. However, activists are also creating new forms for community safety without the police like a crisis hotlineThis connects people to community resources or responders trained for first aid and mental healthcare. Regular meetings at George Floyd Square offer a place for gathering and organizing these efforts without waiting for politicians.

Back in Brooklyn Center, the friends, neighbors and activists who had gathered for Wright’s one-year memorial finished their prayers and released balloons into the evening sky after chanting Wright’s name three times. The sense of hope and togetherness was palpable; as Rupert explained, Wright lives on through his family and the “change-makers” who continue to organize for substantial policeMinnesota’s reform was approved despite the defeat at November’s ballot box. As the memorial was over, old-school hiphop songs were played through speakers and people began to dance together on the streets.