As a jury heard opening statements and early testimony in the manslaughter trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter on Wednesday, protesters gathered outside to show support for the family of Daunte Wright.
"Justice for Daunte Wright!" shouted Tanya James through a bullhorn from the snow-covered south lawn of the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis.
James, of Little Rock, Ark., said she first came to Minneapolis when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was on trial for murdering George Floyd.
In the midst of that trial, Potter shot and killed Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during an April 11 traffic stop. It sparked weeklong protests outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, where Potter worked for 26 years before resigning in the fallout of the fatal shooting.
Since then, James has embedded herself with Twin Cities activists and has become close to the Wright family. She was flanked by one other protester holding a large sign with an image of Wright on Wednesday morning.
But James said Cortez Rice, who filmed himself unlawfully entering the residence building of Judge Regina Chu to protest her since-reversed decision not to allow the trial to be livestreamed, wasn't sitting in jail for people to sit at home. Rice is charged with tampering with a judicial officer, a felony, and his bail is set at $50,000.
"That was for the world to watch. Minneapolis should be out here boots on the ground like with George Floyd," James said. "Don't be here at 4 p.m. when all the cameras are out here for the press releases. Stand in solidarity for the Wright family — it doesn't matter morning, noon or night; ice, rain, snow. George Floyd didn't matter more or less than Daunte Wright. So we need that same pressure. They need to feel our presence from the inside."
A long line formed inside the courthouse Wednesday morning for a 16th-floor overflow viewing room, which filled with a handful of media and a few members of the public. Gov. Tim Walz announced late Wednesday that he would have the National Guard on standby to help ensure any public demonstrations in connection with the trial remain peaceful. The Wright family and supporters sat inside a different observing room on the 20th floor.
During the court's break for lunch, a crowd of relatives and supporters led by attorney Ben Crump exited the building to James' chanting for Potter's conviction through the bullhorn.
Wright's parents, Aubrey Wright and Katie Bryant, who has identified herself as Katie Wright, stood with their children and relatives. Family members of Floyd and others shot in police encounters — Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake — stood nearby.
"We are praying for justice for Daunte Wright, praying for his mother, Katie, and his father, Aubrey, who are both going to testify in this trial," Crump said. "To us, it is a case, a hashtag, a cause. But to them, this was their baby. Their child. Their brother. Their family."
The Rev. Deves Toon, with the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, led a prayer.
"Thank you for this family ... thank you, God, for the poise and the dignity that they have shown throughout this process. Even though, God, it has been a tragedy, they're turning it into triumph. Even though, God, there's been pain, you have given them a purpose. ... The world will know what is taking place here in Minneapolis ... the world will see that his life was purposeful, it meant something to more than just his family, to any family represented here today."
Crump then invited James, the protester from Arkansas, to lead the crowd in a chant calling on "Justice for Daunte Wright" as the families and Crump raised fists in the air.
As court wrapped up for the day, a crowd of more than 50 people walked through downtown streets around the Government Center. Vehicles with flashing hazard lights drove in front and behind the group to protect marchers from rush-hour traffic. By 6 p.m., the crowd dispersed.