Mourners filled a north Minneapolis church Thursday to honor the life of 20-year-old Daunte Wright and demand justice for an ever-growing list of Black people who have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement.
Hundreds of people, including the state's top political leaders and the relatives and partners of George Floyd, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark, Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant and Emmett Till, attended the funeral service for Wright, a Black man who was shot by a Brooklyn Center police officer during a traffic stop. Throughout the two-hour service, prayer, music and memories echoed alongside calls for police reform in Minnesota and at the federal level, including the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
National civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy, noting that some compared Wright's funeral procession to that of Prince.
"You thought he was just some kid with an air freshener," Sharpton said, referencing the reason Wright believed police pulled him over moments before his death. "He was a prince. All of Minneapolis has stopped today to honor the prince of Brooklyn Center."
Wright's funeral came two days after people poured into the streets of Minneapolis in elation following the murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in Floyd's death — the first time in Minnesota history that a white officer has been convicted in the murder of a Black person. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, attended the service and received repeated thanks from speakers and applause from mourners.
"As we make the pleas for justice in the court of public opinion, we pray Attorney General Keith Ellison will allow us to get full justice in the court of law," said attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Wright family.
Also in attendance were Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott.
Wright was shot and killed by former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center on April 11, sparking days of protests, civil unrest and dozens of arrests in the suburb of 31,000.
Potter, who is white, is a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department. She faces one charge of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Wright. She has resigned from the department.
Wright's family said he had left the house with his girlfriend, heading to a car wash. Wright phoned his mother moments before the deadly encounter, telling her he believed police were stopping him for having an air freshener hanging next to the windshield. Police later said he was stopped for expired tabs.
The city's police chief, who has since resigned, said it appeared from body camera video that Potter used her handgun when she meant to use her Taser.
On Thursday, large photos of a smiling Wright flanked his white coffin, which was covered in dozens of red roses.
A choir and band performed gospel music, and professional jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold performed "Amazing Grace" and "We Shall Overcome" as painter Ange Hillz completed a portrait of Wright.
Dressed up in all white and in the arms of a relative, 1-year-old Daunte Wright Jr. looked wide-eyed at the crowd gathered to honor his father. Wright's parents and siblings spoke briefly, describing their son and brother's "million-dollar" smile and joyful personality.
"I was so proud of the man that he was becoming," said brother Dallas. "And he was going to make an amazing father to Junior."
Mother Katie Wright, her husband Arbuey at her side, said she'd been awake until the early hours of the morning, "so nervous and scared about what I was going to stand up here and say."
"I never imagined I'd be standing here," she said. "The roles should be completely reversed. My son should be burying me."
Walz, who spoke briefly at the service, issued a proclamation Thursday morning calling for a statewide moment of silence during the first two minutes of Wright's funeral, from noon to 12:02 p.m.
"While nothing can bring Daunte Wright back to his loved ones, we must continue to work to enact real, meaningful change at the local, state, and national levels to fight systemic racism so that every person in Minnesota — Black, Indigenous, Brown, or White — can be safe and thrive," the proclamation said.
Walz presented the proclamation to Wright's family, and Omar, who also spoke, presented them with a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol.
Klobuchar, in the last remarks before mourners filed out, delivered an impassioned call for federal police reform. She described Wright as an outgoing young man who was "lovingly voted class clown" his freshman year of high school and a basketball fan "whose left-handed shot would make any coach proud."
"Racism in this country is not isolated. It is systemic," Klobuchar said. "And so when we ask ourselves why Daunte Jr. has to grow up without a dad, when we think about what could possibly fill this hole Daunte left in the world, we come up empty. Instead, we find a much bigger hole where justice should be."
After the service, members of Floyd's family said they plan to support the Wright family as they begin a journey through grief and the legal system that they now know well.
"To be there for them, that's our main focus now," said Angela Harrelson, Floyd's aunt.
Selwyn Jones, Floyd's uncle, said he was moved by the funeral service. The Black Lives Matter movement has made gains in the past year to slow police killings of Black people, he said, but he doesn't believe the job will ever be done.
"They'll never stop," he said. "This has been happening for a long time. It will never stop."