Jennifer Brooks
See more of the story

Chemical munitions rained down on mourners in Brooklyn Center as a voice cried out from the crowd.

"Y'all didn't learn from George Floyd."

Brooklyn Center police killed an unarmed Black man on Sunday. On Monday in a courtroom 12 miles south, the trial of a Minneapolis police officer who killed an unarmed Black man resumed.

Daunte Wright was 20 years old. He called his mother before they killed him, scared like every Black man in America gets scared when police lights fill the rearview mirror.

An air freshener dangled from his mirror.

It's illegal to hang air fresheners from your rearview mirror in Minnesota. A driver could get distracted.

A driver could get killed.

It was an accident, police say. An officer pulled her gun instead of her Taser. She was aiming to hurt him and killed him instead.

And what has the Chauvin trial been, if not a weekslong lesson on how easily, how casually, we inflict pain on Black bodies?

Every day, we watch George Floyd die. Every day, he cries out for his mother. Every day, Derek Chauvin's knee grinds into his neck from half a dozen camera angles.

Expert witnesses dissected the killing; freezing and zooming in on the defendant's knee, pointing out how officers' hands pinched and twisted to hurt the handcuffed man pinned beneath the body weight of three grown men. This was the police response to a call about a phony $20 bill.

The top police brass in Minneapolis testified against Chauvin. What he did, they said, was not good police work.

The police department is not on trial. Just the officer the department produced. The one who crushed the breath out of a man last Memorial Day, ignoring screams for mercy from a crowd of children and elders.

Every day, the defense offers up theories about why the victim deserved it. Maybe the drugs killed him as Chauvin was killing him. Maybe calling out "I can't breathe" is an act of resisting arrest. Maybe bystanders pleading for his life distracted the police from saving his life.

Daunte Wright's body was still lying on the street, a police cordon away from his heartbroken mother, when defenders started offering up theories. There was a warrant. His tags were expired. Why didn't he just comply with police? More and more people arrived, grieving and furious because there was no justice, no peace, even while the state was prosecuting police.

Philando Castile complied with police when they pulled him over for a broken headlight and bled to death on Facebook Live. Wright's license tabs were expired, the police chief would later say.

Army medic Lt. Caron Nazario froze when Virginia police officers ordered him to unbuckle his seat belt while somehow also keeping both hands visible out the car window.

"I'm honestly afraid to get out of the car," Nazario said in the body camera footage everyone watched this weekend.

"You should be," the officer said, then Maced him in the face.

The pullover happened in December 2020, but the incident is gaining new scrutiny and attention after he filed a lawsuit against the officers who pulled him over.

People are so tired, so heartsick. But they took to the streets to tell the heavily armed peacekeepers with riot gear and tanks that they can't get over what happened to George Floyd because it keeps on happening.

Daunte Wright won't be there to help his little boy blow out the candles at his second birthday party this summer. This was not good police work.

There were lessons to be learned from Minneapolis' response to the killing of George Floyd. There were times police escalated tensions when they could have stepped back to let the people they wronged grieve in peace.

But by nightfall, Brooklyn Center police — knowing one of their own had just killed a man she apparently meant to subdue with a less-lethal weapon — were lobbing flashbangs and projectiles at protesters and filling the air around a nearby apartment complex with tear gas.

A blue-line flag flapped above the police station in Brooklyn Center on Monday. A message to residents in this majority-Black suburb about whose lives matter.

We didn't learn from George Floyd. • 612-673-4008

Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @stribrooks