BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (AP) – Elected leaders in the Minneapolis suburb, where a police officer fatally shot Daunte Wright, want officers to reduce tactics during nighttime protests and call in some law enforcement agencies to ask if the city still wants their help.
Hundreds of protesters have gathered outside the heavily guarded Brooklyn Center Police Station every evening since former white officer Kim Potter shot and killed the 20-year-old black motorist while in a traffic obstruction on Sunday. Protesters have shouted swear words and at times shook a security fence police set up in front of the building and pelted officials with water bottles. Police drove protesters away with tear gas grenades, rubber bullets, flash grenades and long lines of riot police.
That tactic didn’t work well with Brooklyn City officials.
Mayor Mike Elliott, who is Black, said at a press conference that “gassing is not a human kind of policing” and he did not allow police to use pepper spray, tear gas and paintballs on protesters. Elliott didn’t reply to multiple messages on Friday morning.
Protests continued after Potter was charged with second degree manslaughter on Wednesday. The former police chief in the non-white suburb said Potter fired her pistol when she tried to use her taser, but protesters and Wright’s family say there is no excuse for the shooting. Both Potter and the boss resigned on Tuesday.
Brooklyn Center City Council passed a resolution on Monday banning city officials from using tear gas and other chemicals, chokeholds and police lines to arrest protesters. The resolution also allows protesters to videotape the police.
But the Brooklyn Center police are not alone in dealing with protesters. Other agencies, including the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department and the Minnesota National Guard, have provided assistance at the city’s request in a joint effort known as Operation Safety Net. The city’s resolution is not binding on these agencies.
Sheriff David Hutchinson wrote to Elliott on Wednesday asking if he would like the department’s help.
“The city’s actions since Sunday night have created considerable confusion,” Hutchinson wrote. “To maintain peace and security, it is important that the City of Brooklyn Center communicate with its state, county and local law enforcement partners about the ongoing need for mutual assistance.”
Tensions in the area were already high when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was tried on the death of George Floyd last year. The release on Thursday of police graphic body cameras showing a Chicago officer who fatally shot and killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo, a Hispanic boy, in March further inflamed the situation.
The Brooklyn Center has put a curfew every night, but over the past few nights, the gatherings have been ruled illegal well in advance.
Local Progress Minnesota, a group of liberally-minded local elected officials, reiterated its call for an end to tear gas use, saying the curfew should end as well.
“The last few nights have been marked by indescribable acts of repression,” the group said in a letter. “We won’t build a safer place for each other like this.”
Democratic Governor Tim Walz, who is also Commander in Chief of the Minnesota National Guard, said at a news conference Thursday that he was concerned about tactics but the police were trying to protect the community.
He said protesters may have burned the police station and other buildings if police hadn’t intervened – lessons he learned after a police station in Minneapolis was burned during protests over Floyd’s death last year. These demonstrations damaged more than 1,000 buildings in the Twin Cities area.
“I’ve learned from the past,” said Walz. “(Brooklyn Center Station) would have burned down, and I’m afraid the surrounding apartments would have burned down too. I trust our security guards to be very sensible and think about it. “
Police say Wright was stopped for expired tags, but they wanted to arrest him after discovering he had a pending arrest warrant. The warrant related to his failure to appear in court for escaping from officials and holding a gun without permission during an encounter with police in Minneapolis in June.
The body camera video shows Wright fighting with the police after they say they are arresting him. Potter, a 26 year old veteran, draws her service pistol and repeatedly hears “Taser!” before burning. She then says: “Holy (expletive), I shot him.”