The Brooklyn Center City Council is considering whether to authorize the city manager to call a curfew when a verdict arrives in the trial of Kimberly Potter, the police officer charged with manslaughter in the death last spring of Daunte Wright.
Council members discussed a proposed emergency ordinance at their meeting last week, but postponed making a decision and agreed to take it up again Monday. To grant authority to the city manager, the council vote must be unanimous.
Members expressed uncertainty about how to balance the exercise of free speech by possible protesters with public safety and the protection of businesses against looting and vandalism.
"The main objective is to strike a balance between individuals that would like to express whatever opinions they have after the trial" while maintaining a peaceful environment, said Council Member Kris Lawrence-Anderson.
Potter's trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday. Now free on $100,000 bond, the former Brooklyn Center police officer faces one count each of first- and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop on April 11. Her attorneys say they plan to argue that she mistook her handgun for her Taser when she shot Wright.
The Brooklyn Center police station was the site of clashes between police and protesters after Wright's killing. Authorities fired tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and flash grenades, while protesters threw water bottles and launched fireworks. At a strip mall near the police station, looters broke into several businesses, including a Dollar Tree store that was set on fire.
Under the proposed emergency ordinance, a 9:30 p.m. curfew would be imposed on the day the verdict comes in, with City Manager Reggie Edwards authorized to extend it for up to four days at his discretion.
"The community was really challenged by our ability to, in a timely way, provide when a curfew would go into effect" last spring, Edwards said.
Of special concern was the security of residents in an apartment complex across the street from the police station on Humboldt Avenue, who "suffered unintended consequences due to the necessary police reaction to the civil unrest," Council Member Dan Ryan said.
Some worried that preparing for a possible curfew suggested that city officials expected civil unrest in the wake of the Potter verdict.
"I'm not really sure what message we're sending if we're passing this before the trial," said Council Member Marquita Butler.
The ordinance would establish criteria for putting the curfew into effect. Under the current proposal, the curfew would be announced by 1 p.m. on the day of the verdict, giving community members time to make arrangements.
Announcing at 1 p.m. would be "most desirable," but the timing might not work, Lawrence-Anderson said.
"What if the verdict doesn't come in until 6, 7, 8 o'clock, and we can't impose a curfew and we're reacting to what may or may not be a situation that's more difficult to handle?" she asked.
Mayor Mike Elliott suggested that the council resume the discussion Monday. "I do think we can arrive at something that addresses this issue," he said.