Ben Sheppard/AFP
2 minute read
13 Apr 2021
5:47 am

Despair at vigil for another black man killed by US police

Ben Sheppard/AFP

On Monday evening, hundreds gathered at a vigil around the sculpture before the start of a curfew imposed to prevent overnight protests and looting.

 

At the quiet suburban intersection in Minneapolis where Daunte Wright was shot dead, mourners expressed despair over the latest police killing of a black person to shake the United States.

“We hope for change, but realistically our expectations are different,” said Butchy Austin, 37, a corporate sales worker who has become a social activist since the killing of George Floyd in the city last year.

A white police officer is currently on trial, accused of murdering Floyd — and Wright’s death on Sunday has further fuelled public anger over black men killed by police.

“Frankly, being a person of colour is tiring,” said Austin. “We want to know that we can be safe.”

“It is a systematic problem, and the fight has to be to completely rebuild the system to get equality for all.”

Austin had helped transport a memorial sculpture of a clenched fist from the site where Floyd was killed to where Wright died.

On Monday evening, hundreds gathered at a vigil around the sculpture before the start of a curfew imposed to prevent overnight protests and looting.

‘So traumatic’

“I have come to show my respect for the family in a respectful, peaceful way,” said Mabel Fall, a nurse at the Abbott Northwestern hospital in Minneapolis.

“We don’t want any violence to take away from the family’s grief.

“We may not yet know all the facts, but we know that another man has died.”

Wright died after an officer confused her handgun with her taser during a traffic stop, according to police and bodycam footage of the incident.

Luann Yerks, 68, a retired white woman who drove across the city to attend the vigil, said: “These deaths have been so traumatic for Minneapolis and of course the black community.

“These types of deaths are not new. They have been happening all along, but many people didn’t believe how police treated black people.

“More of the country is becoming aware as it is all on video now.”

At the local police station a short distance away, the apparently accidental cause of Wright’s death did little to assuage an angry crowd.

Protesters taunted police through newly-erected wire fence around the station, and carried signs saying, “Jail all racist killer cops,” “Am I next?” and “No justice, no peace.”

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Minnesota, said the US culture of policing had to change.

“The police perceive themselves as great people doing great things and, when something happens, it is always ‘just one bad person,'” he said.

“That’s what’s happening in the trial of Derek Chauvin (for Floyd’s murder).”

Hussein accused authorities of using the trial and Wright’s death to “disproportionally activate” a security crackdown in the city.

“It was already planned before the trial, and now they have the chance to put the curfew in place,” he said.

“It is very important for the community to grieve, but it is not being allowed space to do that.”