Brooklynites took to the streets this week to protest the police killing of Daunte Wright in Minnesota, echoing calls for justice and police reform across the country.
Officers shot Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, on April 11 during a routine traffic stop just a few miles from where Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, is on trial.
The shooting, which apparently occurred after the officer mistook her firearm for a taser, sent shockwaves through Minnesota and, like Floyd’s death, inspired racial justice protests and demonstrations across New York City.
On Monday night, more than 100 people gathered at Grand Army Plaza for what organizing group Riders for Black Lives — a collective led by Black women cycling to effect change — called an “emergency action.” The group then marched down Flatbush Avenue in the pouring rain while renewing calls to defund the NYPD.
The next day, the same group organized outside of the Barclays Center, where close to 100 cyclists gathered before taking off on a memorial ride for Wright.
For Crown Heights resident Stewart Mitchell, the April 13 ride was especially poignant.
“We’re here to say enough is enough,” said Mitchell, telling press that, while Wright was pulled over for having expired plates, the confrontation escalated when cops saw what could have been an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror — something Mitchell himself has been pulled over for.
“How long can they let this happen?” he asked. “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, especially as a father.”
Brooklyn politicians have also spoken out against Wright’s killing.
“No logic or apology could ever excuse the fatal shooting of yet another Black man in Minnesota,” said Councilmember Farah Louis in a statement.
Louis — who represents the neighborhoods of East Flatbush, Flatbush, Flatlands, Marine Park, and Midwood and is the co-chair of the Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus — maintained that Wright’s killing plays into a “perpetual cycle of violence” that leaves people unable to properly mourn.
“With every loss, we learn the parameters of our so-called liberties, rights, but also the inequities within the criminal justice system,” she said. “Although we are forced to live in fear, we will persist with peaceful protests calling for police accountability because Black lives matter – period.”
In an appearance on Hot 97 radio station Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the incident — in which local police say officer Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the force, “mistakenly” fired a gun at Wright instead of using her taser — must be fully investigated.
“You know, we got to ask ourselves the question, what the hell’s going on. Why are people allowed to be police officers if they don’t know how to handle their weapon?” de Blasio said. “And why is the assumption, in so much in this country, reach for a weapon? For God sakes … it was about a traffic issue, you know, or a vehicle registration. It’s not something that a weapon should have ever been involved in.”
Councilmember and City Comptroller candidate Brad Lander — who attended the kick-off of Tuesday’s ride for Wright — has renewed calls to remove traffic enforcement from the Police Department’s purview.
Lander and Queens City Council candidate Tiffany Cabán released a plan in November to take the task from the NYPD and give it to the city’s Department of Transportation.
“No one should die over a traffic stop,” Lander said. “Daunte Wright, Allan Feliz, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile — we’ve seen over and over again how pre-textual stops are used to racially profile and quickly escalate into deadly violence. Traffic enforcement by police does too little to achieve safer streets. With smarter use of data and a preventative approach we are piloting here in NYC, we have better ways to address reckless driving and traffic violations that will prevent crashes and save lives.”
Since 2015, police officers have fatally shot at least 135 unarmed Black people nationwide, according to an NPR investigation.