Two days after the streets of Minneapolis filled with people celebrating the conviction of a former police officer for murdering George Floyd, the city held a funeral on Thursday for Daunte Wright, another young Black man shot dead by police during a traffic stop.
The killing of Wright, 20, two weeks ago by a police officer who said she mistook her gun for a Taser shocked a city still reeling from Floyd’s death and anxiously watching the trial of his killer, Derek Chauvin. The shooting of Wright, the father of a one year-old boy, in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center sparked days of protests and led to dozens of arrests.
Wright’s white coffin was covered in red roses as hundreds of mourners, including Representative Ilhan Omar, whose district includes Minneapolis, and Senator Amy Klobuchar, paid respects at Shiloh Temple International Ministries.
The service began with gospel songs and prayers before Keyon Harrold, a renowned jazz trumpeter whose son was falsely accused by a white woman of stealing her phone in a New York hotel earlier this year, performed while an artist drew a likeness of Wright.
Wright’s mother, Katie, wept as she remembered her son.
“I never imagined I’d be standing here. The roles should be completely reversed. My son should be burying me,” she said.
Floyd’s relatives were among the mourners at the funeral where the veteran civil rights leader as the Rev Al Sharpton, the veteran civil rights activist, gave a eulogy that picked up on the competing claims for why Wright was stopped. The police it was because the licence tags on his car had expired.
His mother, Katie, said her son called her and said he had been pulled over because he had an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror, which is an offence in Minnesota.
“We’ve come today as the air fresheners for Minnesota,” said Sharpton, who also gave the eulogy at Floyd’s funeral last year. “We’re trying to get the stench of police brutality out of the atmosphere. We’re trying to get the stench of racism out of the atmosphere. We’re trying to get the stench of racial profiling out of the atmosphere.
“We’ve come to Minnesota as air fresheners because your air is too odorous for us to breathe. We can’t breathe in your stinking air no more.”
When the police attempted to arrest Wright after the traffic stop on outstanding warrants, he tried to get back in his vehicle and leave. But he was unarmed and evidently not a threat.
The police officer who shot him, Kim Potter, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter after claiming she meant to reach for her taser but instead fired her gun. Potter and Brooklyn Center’s police chief resigned after the shooting.
Ben Crump, the lawyer for the Wright and the Floyd families, led the mourners in a chant of “Daunte Wright’s life mattered”.
Crump turned to Minnesota’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, and said that he hoped the state would pursue “full justice”.
“Too often traffic stops end up as death sentences,” he said.
On Wednesday, the public paid respects to Wright who lay in an open casket dressed in a jean jacket decorated with red and green buttons, and blanketed with red roses.
Minnesota’s governor, Tim Walz, issued a proclamation calling for a statewide two minutes of silence at noon to remember Wright.