Demonstrators clashed with law enforcement officers in Brooklyn Center for the second night in a row Monday following the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old Black man by a police officer.
Protesters had been on hand throughout the day outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, but the scene escalated after the start of a 7 p.m. curfew across four Twin Cities metro counties instituted by Gov. Tim Walz.
About 300 people attended a separate, peaceful vigil for Daunte Wright earlier in the evening at the site of the traffic stop that ended with his shooting.
"Right now, this community, this city, this state, our nation, our country, our world is broken," said the Rev. Jeanette Rupert, who also works as an ICU nurse and said she came to speak at the vigil before her night shift. "We have had the knees on our neck for so long."
Coming amid the high-profile criminal trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in George Floyd's death, Wright's fatal shooting in the suburb directly north of Minneapolis also ignited a clash late Sunday between demonstrators and law enforcement officers.
By shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, police began to warn demonstrators, who still numbered in the hundreds, that they were in violation of curfew. Officers began to move toward the fence in formation and issued orders to disperse.
Authorities fired multiple rounds of tear gas, along with rubber bullets and flash grenades. Protesters dispersed from areas hit by tear gas were regrouping and retaliating by throwing water bottles and launching fireworks. Later, lines of police in riot gear pushed groups of protesters away from the station. At a strip mall near the police station, looters broke into several businesses, including a Dollar Tree store where flames were later spotted.
At a 12:30 a.m. Tuesday news conference, Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said that 40 people were arrested Monday night at the Brooklyn Center protest. Some were booked into the Hennepin County jail, some cited and released, he said. Several law enforcement officers suffered minor injuries from thrown debris; no protester injuries were reported, he said.
Langer said that law enforcement leaders made several attempts to talk to protest leaders to seek help in dispersing the crowds at curfew, but "unfortunately, those efforts were not successful ... so we stood and protected the [Brooklyn Center Police Department] building."
Law enforcement leaders at the news conference described looting as limited and sporadic. In Minneapolis, 13 people were arrested, according to Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Amelia Huffman. Of those arrests, four were for burglaries related to looting, two were suspects in shots-fired incidents, six were for curfew violations and one was on an outstanding warrant. Five businesses, including the E. Lake Street Target, a liquor store and a shoe store, were targeted by looting, she said. She described the damage from looting as "limited."
Booker Hodges, an assistant commissioner for the state Department of Public Safety, said that the law enforcement officials gathered at the early-morning news conference wanted to thank all the "peaceful protesters" who showed up Monday, stressing that that those who caused late-night trouble were outliers.
Late Monday, Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said that at least one person had been arrested on suspicion of looting at the E. Lake Street Target.
Earlier in the day, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said that the officer who fatally shot Duante Wright appeared to have fired her gun accidentally when intending to fire a Taser.
"I just need everyone to know that he was my life. He was my son," Wright's mother, Katie Wright, said at a vigil at the site of the fatal traffic stop. "And I can never get that back. Because of a mistake? Because of an accident?"
At the vigil near the corner of 63rd Avenue and Orchard Avenue N., activists brought in the large wooden fist that for much of the past year sat at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where Floyd was killed last May. A metal replica now stands where the original once did.
Several pastors prayed for the Wright family, and trumpet player Butchy Austin, who lives near George Floyd Square, ended the vigil with "Amazing Grace." In addition to Wright's mother, his brother and grandfather addressed the crowd.
"I would never think in a million years that this would happen to my grandson," Bobby Wright said. "He didn't deserve it."
The service broke up around the time the curfew started, with organizers urging participants to head home.
Earlier in the day, police erected a fence and concrete barricades around the department's perimeter, and it was ringed by uniformed soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard and Minnesota State Patrol officers, who were ramping up their presence at potential hot spots throughout the metro at Walz's direction. The governor instituted a 7 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew for Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka and Dakota counties.
Walz and other local leaders urged peaceful protests while vowing consequences for those who damage property.
"You cannot honor the memory of George Floyd, you cannot honor the memory of Daunte Wright by wreaking havoc in the communities they called home," St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said at an afternoon briefing. Business owners across the metro scrambled to close early.
Emergency responders and the media were exempt from the curfew, as were those traveling directly to and from work, seeking emergency care, fleeing dangerous circumstances or experiencing homelessness.
Those traveling to and from religious services were also exempt from the curfew, an exception clarified after the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement condemning officials for preventing prayer gatherings on the first night of Ramadan.
The curfew did little to prevent the chaotic scene around the police station, as authorities fired numerous rounds of tear gas canisters. At least one canister was seen landing and going off on the garden-level porch of an apartment across the street. At one point, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott was spotted in the crowd asking protesters for calm.
"We are going to get to the bottom of this. We are going to make sure there is justice," Elliott said.
At 11 p.m., Elliott tweeted that "Our city is calm now."
Tayler Larsen, a 21-year-old who said she lives just down the street from the Police Department, was demonstrating outside the building Monday night with a sign that read, "Will my brother be next?" Another protester's sign read "Murder, Murder, Murder."
"It's just really disheartening. It's hard on all of us, it's hard on this community," Larsen said. "We're still trying to get through George Floyd."
Staff writers Liz Sawyer, Andy Mannix and Pamela Miller contributed to this report.