Speaking at the memorial site for Daunte Wright as the jury in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin deliberated for a second day, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar said the community is stuck in a cycle of injustice she hopes a guilty verdict can break.
"The case to me feels like a closed case," she said. "As the community is still on edge and feels that we are a community that has experienced injustice over and over again, this might actually be the turning point."
Residents and elected officials from Brooklyn Center hosted a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the place where Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was fatally shot during an April 11 traffic stop by former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter, who police said mistook her gun for her Taser. Demonstrations began within hours of Wright's killing and every day since then, protesters have gathered outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department as a wave of mutual aid pours into the community.
"I just want you to look around and see as you're here in our city the good things that are going on — not just the boarded up stores and things like that. We got people doing great things," said John Solomon, school board director of Brooklyn Center Community Schools. "We're going to show you all that as a small community, we're going to set the example for this country."
Omar said that Brooklyn Center is an "example of how diversity thrives."
"This is a city where a beautiful fabric, a mosaic of beautiful people from all over the world have gathered and created a community where they can all rely on one another and live peacefully together and work in supporting each other," she said, adding that many residents have come to the north metro suburb as refugees.
The congresswoman, whose district includes Brooklyn Center, referred to Wright's killing as "state-sanctioned violence" and talked about residents being retraumatized as they see another unarmed Black man killed by police.
"Our communities are tired and exhausted at this repeated offense and assault that continues to happen, where we continue to find ourselves in a state of mourning, in a state of exhaustion, in a state of trauma and constantly seeing so much pain unearthed every single day," she said.
Mayor Mike Elliott reiterated previous criticisms of law enforcement tactics during recent protests and called for accountability and transparency within policing.
"We're going to do all that we possibly can that is within our power to make sure that we are implementing the kind of changes that would see that another Daunte life isn't lost," Elliott said.
Brooklyn Center resident and Minneapolis educator Matt Branch said he wants a civilian oversight board for the police department, and for officers to cease traffic stops for low-level violations.
Branch said he knows the potential of "not doing everything white" when confronted by police. He said he was pulled over by the same Brooklyn Center police officer three times, and has been followed out of gas stations and blocked inside as officers run his license plate.
"Hear and respect my fear," Branch said. "We demand to be seen, we demand to be heard and we demand to be respected and valued as human beings by the officers and the system."
Protea Toles recalled how her heart dropped when she got the call that her brother had been shot by police.
"Immediately I thought he was dead. I thought my brother was dead," said Toles, whose brother was shot and wounded by Chauvin during a 2008 domestic assault call, "And I had to allow that to register before I realized that he was alive."
Toles said as the mother of two Black children, she always fears that they could one day be victims of police violence. She called for changes in local government, including requiring the city manager, who sets the city's agenda and oversees the police department, to live in the city.
Not a single Brooklyn Center police officer lives within city limits, according to Elliott. Data obtained by the Star Tribune show that although Brooklyn Center is one of the state's most diverse communities, less than a quarter of officers there are people of color.
"I know that we've been asking for accountability. We've been asking for transparency, we've been asking for transformational change," Omar said. "In this dark moment we will walk together toward the light."
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751