Story published: April 20, 2021

Anti-racism activists have taken to the streets since the April 11 killing of Daunte Wright, an unarmed 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter, who is white. Brooklyn Center called on National Guard and Sheriff personnel to reinforce security around the city’s police department headquarters. Activists say those reinforcements and arrests, and aggressive use of tear gas and other weapons against protestors, and even journalists, after curfew intensified the situation.

Patience Chowoe of Minneapolis took the day off of work as a diet technician at a hospital to come down to try and talk with police officers in Brooklyn Center. She grew up in the neighborhood and says the area is chronically over-policed.

“This is very emotional for me because we have a city mayor who is also from Liberia. He’s an immigrant as well,” Chowoe said, who also came to the U.S. as a child. But she was unable to get much reaction from National Guard members and police from nearby Brooklyn Park, who were guarding the police building behind a steel fence.

“I’m angry because I want to have the conversation with the police, I want to know why they’re so angry with Black people? When you pull us over, why are you so angry? Why the animosity, why are you treating us like third-class citizens?” Chowoe said.

Chowoe was visibly frustrated that there were no Brooklyn Center police officers present.

“If anyone needs protection, it’s us,” she said.

Nearby, workers were boarding up businesses at a shopping mall already struck by graffiti and looting from previous nights of protests.

Eighteen-year old Arthur Sims, who is Black, walked by the police department and a few protestors there during the day. He says the police killings have to stop.

“People can’t even walk outside their house without thinking, oh [expletive], I might get shot by ’12’ [the police]. Or if I get pulled over, I can’t get out of the car when they say so because I might get shot,” he said.

Sims said his community is already on edge because of the Derek Chauvin trial. He said he just wants accountability.

“All I want is for cops to be treated like any normal person, if they do a crime. That’s all I want, that’s all I want. I don’t care how small a crime, if they did it, they should deal with it. Because they are the ones enforcing the laws,” he said.

The next day, high school students at Brooklyn Center High School skipped classes to protest on school grounds under the watch of their teachers. They said they understand this is about their futures.

“At a young age, whenever a police officer [stops you], be respectful, make sure he sees your hands, make sure you don’t make sudden movements,” said senior Daniel Retic.

“Since we come out of the womb, we’re taught to submit to the police, follow their orders just to make it back home to our families. It’s disheartening,” said junior Max Madyun.

Former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kimberly Potter, 48, is out on $100,000 bail. The Champlin resident has made her first court appearance after her arrest and charging. Potter, a 26-year veteran and field training officer, has alleged she thought she was holding a Taser instead of her Glock firearm. These young people said that explanation is hard to believe.

“There’s so much training they have to go into to become a police officer. And if under pressure you’re reacting the wrong way, you shouldn’t be a police officer,” Retic added.

At 17, Le-Rayrone Gibson, a junior at the school, said he’s already had many encounters with the police, and all of them were negative.

“Every single time I interacted with them, it never had to do with me feeling protected….I never felt like I was on the receiving end of that protection,” he said.

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For the first time in 27 years, most Americans surveyed by Gallup do not trust the police. A separate Gallup poll, also cited in a Minnesota report, found that only 19% of Black adults now trust the police. Over-policing, racial profiling and excessive force factor into that distrust. And while most Black Minnesotans surveyed want public safety reforms, white supremacy remains an issue. 

With media outlets from all across the globe descending on Minneapolis during the trial of Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd, we wondered: How has the media perpetuated racism when covering communities of color? And how do Black media organizations handle reporting on community differently? 

The Chauvin trial has stirred up a tidal wave of trauma in Minnesota’s communities of color for whom racialized trauma is already a daily experience. So we talked to author and therapist Resmaa Menakem, who shares five ways that people can take care of themselves during the trial.