Protesters, police clash for third night over US police shooting

Protesters react amid flash bangs set off by the police while rallying near the Brooklyn Center Police Department, days after Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a police officer, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota April 13, 2021. — Reuters pic
Protesters react amid flash bangs set off by the police while rallying near the Brooklyn Center Police Department, days after Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a police officer, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota April 13, 2021. — Reuters pic

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MINNEAPOLIS, April 14 — Protesters faced off with police for a third night Tuesday in the American city of Minneapolis over the killing of a young Black man shot by an officer, with more than 60 people arrested, law enforcement officials said.

Tensions have soared over the Sunday police shooting of Daunte Wright near the midwestern city, in a community already on edge over the ongoing trial of an officer accused of killing another Black man, George Floyd, last year.

Riot police moved in to disperse a group of demonstrators estimated to number between 800 and 1,000 in Brooklyn Center, the suburb where Sunday’s shooting took place.

Officers deployed stun grenades while protesters responded by throwing objects including water bottles and bricks, law enforcement officials said.

Earlier in the day the families of Wright and Floyd came together to demand an end to police brutality and the killing of unarmed African Americans by white officers.

“The world is traumatized watching another African-American man being slain,” Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd said of 20-year-old Wright, as he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Wright’s relatives at an outdoor press event in driving snow.

A day earlier Philonise Floyd testified in the case against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer on trial for murder and manslaughter in the case of George Floyd, whose death last year shocked the nation.

“To the Wright family from the Floyd family, you all have our condolences,” Floyd said Tuesday as he consoled the latest African-American family devastated by the death of a loved one at the hands of police. “We’re here, and we will fight for justice for this family.”

Wright was shot dead during a traffic stop by a police officer who apparently confused her handgun with her Taser, in what the force later described as a horrible accident.

The officer who shot Wright resigned on Tuesday, as did Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, who had told reporters earlier that the officer “had the intention to deploy their Taser but instead shot Mr Wright with a single bullet.”

The families rejected the accident explanation, as several relatives and activists at the press event called for the officer to be arrested and jailed for her actions.

“A so-called mistake? A handgun for a Taser? It’s unacceptable,” Floyd’s nephew Brandon Williams said.

“Just because you are the law doesn’t mean you’re above the law,” he added. “When is enough enough?” 

For activists like Toshira Garraway, Wright’s killing is another example of the police brutality and systemic discrimination that has prompted an American reckoning on racial injustice.

“We want the world to know that these are not isolated issues, that in fact George Floyd and Daunte Wright (are) the face of hundreds of murders here in the state of Minnesota that have been covered up for many years,” she told the crowd at the press conference.

Surrounded by relatives, Chyna Whitaker, the mother of Wright’s one-year-old son, and Wright’s own mother Katie Wright spoke emotionally about the last times they spoke with or saw Daunte.

“I’m just so messed up about it, because I feel like they stole my son’s dad from him,” Whitaker said.

‘Can’t breathe’

Shortly before the families spoke, prosecutors rested their case against Chauvin in the Floyd trial.

The defence immediately launched into its case. Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson contends that Floyd died from underlying health problems mixed with his use of drugs fentanyl and methamphetamine, and not from police actions. 

In a video taken by a bystander at the scene, the 45-year-old Chauvin, who is white, was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the handcuffed 46-year-old Black man — arrested for allegedly passing a fake US$20 bill — complained repeatedly that he “can’t breathe.”

The recording touched off protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States and around the world.

Wright’s killing Sunday has triggered fresh tumult, with protesters taking to the streets despite the imposition of a curfew.

‘I shot him’

In the body camera footage, police officers are seen pulling Wright out of his car after stopping him for a traffic violation and discovering he had an outstanding warrant.

When officers attempt to handcuff Wright, he scuffles with them and gets back in the car. A female police officer shouts, “Taser! Taser! Taser!” but a gunshot is then heard.

“Holy shit, I shot him,” the officer says.

President Joe Biden called the killing “tragic” but urged calm as authorities conduct an investigation. — AFP

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