DULUTH – Nearly 150 people filled a downtown street Wednesday to protest the police killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center as refrains of "No justice, no peace" and "Black lives matter" pierced an otherwise quiet afternoon.
"We're being told by police, 'Put your hands up' and you're still killing us," organizer Lamarquita Leach said. "There's so much in the system that needs to change. We'd have to start a whole new system."
The crowd marched to City Hall from the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, the site where in 1920 a white mob lynched three Black men on false accusations of rape. Since the death of George Floyd last year, the memorial has become a gathering place for those seeking social justice.
"We came here today to stand in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters in the face of their own ongoing genocide," activist Taysha Martineau, a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, told the crowd. "I can't ever speak to what it's like to raise Black sons in a world where they don't make it home from the grocery store. ... But I can mourn alongside you and empower you and stand with you."
The Duluth Branch NAACP on Wednesday reissued its demands the Duluth Police Department bring its arrest and use-of-force rates in line with local demographics.
"We stand in solidarity and mourning with the family of Daunte Wright and the community of Brooklyn Center and greater Minnesota, we renew our demands for racial equity and police accountability in Duluth," the organization said in a news release. "We will not rest until we dismantle the white supremacist structures that enabled police to act violently against Daunte Wright."
White residents comprise 90% of the city's population, but half of all use-of-force incidents involved people of color last year, according to police data compiled by LEAN Duluth. Three years of arrest data also show Black and Indigenous residents are arrested at disproportionately high rates.
Mayor Emily Larson said earlier this month she has ordered a "top to bottom racial bias audit to identify problems and areas we need to address in our approach to policing."
The NAACP said in its statement it is also asking for an end to "the use of all pretextual stops, especially those for minor traffic infractions," which is how Wright's interaction with police began on Sunday. "We will not wait until somebody dies in Duluth to demand proper changes."
The Duluth Human Rights Commission on Tuesday held a brief news conference condemning violence against communities of color.
"We have issues in Duluth that desperately need advocacy and our attention," said commission president Bettina Keppers. "What is it going to take for us to finally see, listen to and trust our Black, Indigenous, people of color community members?"
As Wednesday's march came to a close, University of Minnesota Duluth student Rikkia Walker told the crowd she was in St. Paul last weekend when Wright was killed: "I keep thinking about how we're supposed to be protected."
Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496