Seventh night of protests in Brooklyn Center ends without confrontation

Police officers stand guard on a roof as demonstrators gather
Police officers stand guard on a roof as demonstrators gather during a protest outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Saturday in Brooklyn Center, Minn. It was the seventh day of protests in the suburban Minneapolis city following the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright by Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter.
Stephen Maturen | Getty Images

Updated: April 18, 6:05 a.m.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Saturday for a seventh night of protests over the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright.

As the crowd gathered along Humboldt Avenue in front of two barriers ringing the police station, with letters reading “Stop State Terror” affixed to the chain-link fencing, fallout continued from a police crackdown on protesters and journalists the previous night.

But Saturday’s protests remained more subdued compared to Friday night. Protesters chanted and directed insults towards police, but at times also danced to music.

A demonstrator raises their hands
A demonstrator raises their hands -- with a message on one reading "Is my son next?" -- on Saturday in Brooklyn Center, Minn., during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by a police officer during a traffic stop.
John Minchillo | AP

Law enforcement refrained from firing the flash-bang canisters and sponge grenades they had employed on previous nights. And as an 11 p.m. curfew passed, police did not advance on the crowd; instead, it dissipated on its own. Authorities reported one arrest.

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Protesters also gathered earlier Saturday in Stillwater, Minn., outside the home of Washington County Attorney Pete Orput who is handling the case of Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer who shot Wright during a traffic stop last Sunday. They called on Orput to file more-serious charges against Potter.

A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest
A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Saturday.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

Aftermath of Friday arrests

Friday's protest started as a peaceful demonstration and march, but several hours later it quickly descended into chaos as a large contingent of law enforcement officers rushed, pursued and surrounded protesters.

More than 130 protesters were arrested, and journalists were also caught up in the crackdown and detained, with some pepper-sprayed and others required to be photographed and have their IDs photographed.

It was a drastic change in tactics from Thursday night, when authorities opted against enforcing a curfew and let protesters disperse on their own, without any arrests.

Authorities said Friday’s crackdown was in response to attempts by some protesters to breach a fence around the police station.

“Tearing down a fence, coming armed to a protest, is not in my mind befitting a peaceful protest. It is not befitting groups that are there to recognize the tragedy that is the loss of Daunte Wright,” Minnesota’s public safety commissioner, John Harrington, said at a news conference just after midnight.

Criticism of the tactics used by law enforcement grew during the day Saturday, with photos and videos spreading across social media. The detention and pepper-spraying of journalists drew particular scrutiny, as it appeared to violate a court order filed hours before the protest.

As part of an ongoing lawsuit tied to the treatment of media at protests in Minneapolis last summer, U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright issued a temporary restraining order Friday prohibiting police at the protests in Brooklyn Center from arresting journalists, forcing them to disperse or using force against them.

In a letter sent to state officials on Saturday on behalf of more than 25 media organizations, including MPR News, attorney Leita Walker wrote that in recent days, "law enforcement officers have engaged in widespread intimidation, violence, and other misconduct directed at journalists that have interfered with their ability to report on matters of intense public interest and concern."

The letter followed a meeting between Gov. Tim Walz and other state officials, and leaders of several media outlets, in which the state officials apologized for how reporters were treated and pledged to abide by the terms of the restraining order.

The State Patrol issued a statement saying that troopers will no longer take photos of journalists or their IDs, though they may still check credentials.

The Patrol pledged to not use force against journalists or force them to disperse, and said it provided the same guidance to other agencies that are part of "Operation Safety Net," the multi-agency effort assembled to respond to the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis and also now responding to the protests in Brooklyn Center.

As of 10:15 p.m. Saturday, KARE 11 video from the protests in Brooklyn Center showed demonstrators chanting as they faced the police station, with no sign of confrontations between protesters and law enforcement.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson meets with demonstrators
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, center, meets with demonstrators during a protest outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Saturday in Brooklyn Center, Minn. The protests over the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright continued for a seventh night.
John Minchillo | AP

Civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson met with protesters outside the police station on Saturday evening.

And later in the evening, Democratic California Congresswoman Maxine Waters joined demonstrators. In video from the protest broadcast by Unicorn Riot, Waters told the crowd that "I want you to know that there are many in Congress who feel as you do. ... I stand with you."

"I could not sleep, I could not rest or be satisfied until I came here," she said, calling for justice for Daunte Wright.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joins demonstrators in a protest
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joins demonstrators in a protest outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Saturday.
Stephen Maturen | Getty Images

The 82-year-old congresswoman decried the 11 p.m. curfew set by authorities as a way to tamp down demonstrations, and encouraged the remaining crowd of about 150 people to “stay in the street.”

“This is a very difficult time in the history of this country,” Waters said. “We have to let people know that we are not going to be satisfied unless we get justice in these cases.”

Chanting continued as that curfew went into effect at 11 p.m. Saturday, with no sign that authorities were moving to enforce the order. The curfew was set to last until 6 a.m. Sunday.

A demonstrator holds up a sign during a protest
A demonstrator holds up a sign during a protest outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Saturday.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

As he imposed the new curfew earlier Saturday, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott also called for law enforcement to use more restraint in responding to protests.

In a statement, the city said the mayor “has requested that law enforcement – including (those from) Brooklyn Center and those from surrounding communities – to not use tear gas, rubber bullets, paint markings or the method referred to as ‘kettling’ on individuals who have gathered to protest peacefully.

“Other safety measures will include notifying protesters in increments of one hour, 30 minutes and 15 minutes, before the 11 p.m. curfew goes into effect.”

The city of Brooklyn Center said the curfew does not apply to people “traveling to and from work or religious services; to law enforcement; those seeking medical care, emergency services, or fleeing danger; persons experiencing homelessness; recognized members of community groups authorized by the city to provide aid; or to the news media.”

Stillwater protest

On Saturday, protesters tried a different tack by gathering in front of the home of Orput, the Washington County attorney, to push him to bring more-severe charges against Potter. A crowd of about 100 people marched through the streets of his neighborhood.

Protesters rally in Stillwater
Jaylani Hussein of CAIR-MN (middle left), Nekima Levy Armstrong (left), Washington County Attorney Pete Orput (middle right), and Pete's wife Tami Orput (right) talk outside of the Orputs' home on Saturday in Stillwater, Minn. Protesters were calling on Pete Orput to file more-severe charges against Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer who shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.
Christopher Juhn for MPR News

Orput came out of his home at one point to speak with a couple of the organizers of the protest — lawyer and activist Nekima Levy Armstrong, and Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Levy Armstrong said Orput explained why his office charged Potter with second-degree manslaughter, instead of more severe murder charges.

She credited him with engaging with the protesters, something she said never happened with Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman after Floyd died. The Minnesota Attorney General’s office eventually took over that prosecution, and Freeman sold his home after frequent protests.

But Levy Armstrong indicated they would not let up the pressure on Orput, saying, “We are committed to continuing to have conversations with him until we see some murder charges."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.