The shooting only heightened tensions in an area already on edge. Ten miles down Interstate 94 in Minneapolis, the murder trial for Derek Chauvin — arguably the biggest police trial in state history — is underway.
Brooklyn Center officials and state officials, including Gov. Tim Walz (D), addressed the grief and anger in the community in news conferences Monday. Walz issued a 7 p.m. curfew that spanned four counties as leaders tried to acknowledge the emotion in the community while discouraging unrest. The results were mixed late Tuesday.
At one of the vigils for Wright scheduled to end before the curfew, hundreds joined Wright’s family near the intersection where he was shot as a trumpeter played “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” A minister introduced Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, who told attendees, “My heart is literally broken into a thousand pieces, and I don’t know what to do or what to say.”
At the Brooklyn Center Police Department, a protest organized by community groups ended an hour before the curfew, but hundreds of people, most of them in their 20s or younger, continued to stream. An officer issued a dispersal order over a bullhorn when the 7 p.m. curfew took effect, but the crowd remained, chanting Wright’s name and blaring songs from a nearby van.
More than an hour later, officers moved in to separate the protesters into two groups and block access to the police station. Several older protesters, including Black Panther members wearing bulletproof vests, tried to maintain calm and implored people not to throw anything at the police line.
At one point, someone threw a glass bottle at police. Police responded with concussion rounds and tear gas.
At least 40 people were arrested Monday at the Brooklyn Center protests, Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said during a late-night news conference. Several law enforcement officers suffered minor injuries from debris thrown at them; no injuries of protesters were reported, he said. Thirteen people were arrested in Minneapolis.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is helping organize the prosecution in the Chauvin trial, were among the officials to meet with protesters outside the police station around 10:40 p.m. Elliott, who earlier in the day said he supported Potter’s removal from the police department, told the protesters that he supports them but pleaded for patience.
“I know y’all are angry; I’m angry, too. I’ve seen this too many times,” Elliott said. “But the reason I’m here tonight with y’all is to tell y’all we’re going to get to the bottom of this. This officer is going to be held accountable.”
He vowed to do everything in his power to ensure that “justice is done” and that nothing gets “swept under the rug.”
Earlier on Monday, Elliott publicly split with City Manager Curt Boganey and Police Chief Tim Gannon over whether Potter should be fired.
“All employees working for the city of Brooklyn Center are entitled to due process with respect to discipline,” Boganey said. “This employee will receive due process, and that’s really all I can say today.”
Elliott said the officer should be dismissed.
“Let me be very clear: My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession,” he said at a news conference. “So I do fully support relieving the officer of her duties.”
During a Tuesday morning interview on NBC’s “Today” show, Elliott, newly imbued with command over his city’s police department, said he still “strongly” believed Potter should be fired but acknowledged that there is a process in place that will decide her fate. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the matter.
“I think whenever through the line of duty an officer kills a human being, there must be accountability,” Elliott said.