With the nation already on edge awaiting the outcome of the Derek Chauvin murder trial in Minneapolis, protests and looting in response to a fatal officer-involved shooting in a community just miles away are now making an already-tense situation even worse.
As Fox News reports, upwards of 500 Minnesota National Guard troops have already been activated throughout the Twin Cities area this week, though that number is slated to grow in the wake of racial unrest following the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in nearby Brooklyn Center.
In anticipation of the approach of closing arguments in the trial of Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged in the May, 2020 death of George Floyd, Operation Safety Net was put into place to prevent a repeat of the violent, destructive demonstrations that ravaged the region last year. However, amid a new wave of protests stemming from the death of Wright, tensions have escalated dramatically.
The incident involving Wright unfolded on Sunday afternoon when he was pulled over by Brooklyn Center police on suspicion of a traffic violation and it was determined that he had an outstanding arrest warrant. Reports have suggested that Wright began to resist arrest and attempted to drive away from the scene, at which point he was shot by one of the arresting officers, as Minneapolis CBS affiliate WCCO noted.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon subsequently announced his belief that the officer in question meant to use her Taser to subdue Wright, but inadvertently grabbed her service weapon instead, accidentally discharging a single, deadly shot, as Fox News reported. Bodycam video of the incident has since been released, and it reveals that a 26-year department veteran – since identified as Kimberly Potter — shouted “Taser!” no fewer than three times before Wright was shot, after which she exclaimed, “Oh s***, I just shot him,” as USA Today reported.
Within mere hours of the tragic incident, hundreds of protestors hit the streets, with looting and destruction picking up speed as the evening progressed, according to the Star Tribune. The New York Post reported that police employed flash bang grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets in attempts to disperse the crowd, members of which threw projectiles such as rocks and broken concrete at officers before an unlawful assembly was declared.
Clashes between protestors and police did not abate on Monday, however, as a second night of unrest gripped the area despite authorities’ declaration of a 7 p.m. Curfew, as Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) reported. Hundreds of demonstrators amassed outside the Brooklyn Center police station, where police in riot gear stood guard with no National Guard presence noticeable the immediate area.
Looters reportedly trashed a Dollar Tree store and a Boost Mobile outlet in an adjacent shopping center, and roughly 40 arrests were eventually made, according to MPR, for offenses that ranged from curfew violations to rioting. Though protestors attempted to breach a barrier that had been built surrounding the police department, they did not succeed, but multiple officers were injured after being hit by thrown debris, according to local Fox affiliate KMSP.
With the Chauvin case moving toward its conclusion and outrage over Wright’s death reaching fever pitch, only time will tell whether local police, state authorities, and National Guard troops will be able to prevent a repeat of the devastation from which Greater Minneapolis is still struggling to recover nearly one year later.