BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — Communities across the nation marched and mourned Tuesday in memory of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by a police officer after a traffic stop over the weekend.
More than two dozen prayed and paid respects in the freezing weather at the memorial erected Monday night where Wright was killed — a giant, rust-brown sculpture of a clenched fist, surrounded by flower bouquets, messages and candles.
Samuel Howell, 65, from Princeton, Minnesota, fell to his knees and began to weep at the sight. He told USA TODAY that he is a former cop from San Bernardino, California, but that his son-in-law is Black.
“I just think, ‘What if it was him?’” he said. “‘Or my grandchildren?’ Lives are precious.”
Two women comforted and hugged him, saying that “we’ll get through this together.”
“The whole community feels helpless,” said Katie Russell, 34, from Brooklyn Park. “All we can do right now is comfort each other.”
Across town, a group of protesters gathered at the Brooklyn Center Police Station, where just hours before, Officer Kim Potter, who fatally shot Wright, and the city’s police chief resigned.
A decision on whether prosecutors will charge Potter could come as soon as Wednesday. Meanwhile, the cities of Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis and St. Paul imposed 10 p.m. curfews.
More than 1,000 protesters gathered again Tuesday at Brooklyn Center’s heavily guarded police headquarters, now ringed by concrete barriers and a tall metal fence, and where police in riot gear and National Guard soldiers stood watch. “Murderapolis” was scrawled with black spray paint on a concrete barrier. The group also marched to the Minneapolis office of the FBI, a couple blocks away.
“Daunte Wright! Say his name!” the crowd chanted. “No justice, no peace! Prosecute the police!”
After about 45 minutes of speeches, some protesters left, while others began to approach the fence, some throwing projectiles. National Guard members launched flash bangs and tear gas at them, video on Twitter showed.
Wright’s death on Sunday has shaken a nation already unsettled by a series of police killings.
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George Floyd died about 10 miles away during a police arrest last May, an incident that led to nationwide protests calling for an end to racial injustice and police brutality. Brooklyn Center is not far from where former police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial in Floyd’s death.
About a six-hour drive from where Wright died, the Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer who shot Jacob Blake, a Black man who was paralyzed from the waist down after the shooting in August, has returned to regular duty and won’t face any administrative discipline.
On Tuesday, Chief Daniel Miskinis issued a news release on Twitter stating that Rusten Sheskey has also been cleared of breaking any internal policies, and has been back on duty after months of administrative leave since March 31.
As Brooklyn Center mourned, other cities around the country had already started protesting.
Several dozen people marched through downtown Chicago Tuesday evening, calling for justice for Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy fatally shot by a Chicago police officer at the end of March. According to videos of the demonstration shared on social media, protesters could be heard chanting: “Say his name, Daunte Wright!”
In Columbus, Ohio, protesters got into the police headquarters, which was locked with handcuffs, according to student newspaper The Lantern. Police deployed pepper spray as they tried to get inside.
In Dallas, Texas, protesters blocked roads. And in Philadelphia, more than 200 people marched.
Contributing: Grace Hauck and Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY; Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; The Associated Press