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Daunte Wright protest, April 11, 2021 Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Photo: Chad Davis / cropped from original / licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0), linked at the bottom of article

Daunte Wright protest, April 11, 2021 Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Photo: Chad Davis / cropped from original / licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0), linked at the bottom of article

Mere miles from the trial of George Floyd’s killer, the shooting of Daunte Wright is a tragic reminder of why the Black Lives Matter movement is still so necessary, writes Terina Hine

The ugly spectre of US policing returned to Minneapolis again on Sunday afternoon, when Daunte Wright was stopped by police and shot dead.

Poignantly timed, in the middle of the high profile trial of the officer who killed George Floyd just a few miles away, another young, black man was pulled over by the Minneapolis police and ‘accidentally’ shot.

In parts of the US police kill black people at a rate six times higher than they kill white people. As police forces are not required to provide data, statistical evidence has been compiled by campaigners - mostly since the birth of the BLM movement - and although not exact, the picture is clear: the US police do not think black lives matter.

It will be of little comfort to the family of either George Floyd or Daunte Wright to learn that it is in the northern Midwest - where Minneapolis, Minnesota lies - where the differences are most stark. In Minnesota more than 55 black lives have been lost during interactions with the police since 2002.

About 1,000 people a year are killed by law enforcement officers every year in the US - most go unpunished. The trial of Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd is a rare event. Since 2005, 121 officers have been arrested for murder or manslaughter for on-duty killings, of these only 44 have been convicted and many for a lesser charge[1].

Chauvin is facing murder and manslaughter charges for the killing of George Floyd. He has pleaded not guilty. After 11 days of prosecution evidence, this week the defence will present their case. It is expected that the trial will end next week.

So far we have heard testimony from a number of medical professionals who state Floyd did not die from heart failure or drug abuse as asserted by the defence, but as a result of lack of oxygen due to "the restraint and positional asphyxiation that he was subjected to". In addition eight members of the Minneapolis police have testified for the prosecution, including the city’s police chief.

It is common in cases of police killings for the defence to cite the pressure of split-second decision making in a life-or-death situation, and this case is no exception. The defence claim that Chauvin and his fellow officers faced a hostile mob, but this is not what the video evidence reveals - instead it shows Chauvin’s knee digging into Floyd’s neck ‘like a vice’ for almost nine minutes while bystanders plead with him to stop and Floyd struggles for breath.

It is hard to see how Chauvin could walk free at the end of the trial, but history warns against complacency. It is rare for US police officers to be charged for murder in the line of duty, it is rarer still for them to be convicted.

But it is also true that trials do not happen in isolation, and the noise from the streets can sometimes filter through. The latest shooting has reignited protests against the police, and while protesters were met with riot police deploying tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets, Chauvins defence team tried to argue current protests could skew the verdict and requested the jury be sequestered. The judge denied the request.

Given the current atmosphere in Minneapolis a not-guilty verdict would add paraffin to a fire already burning out of control.

But a backlash against protesters, and the BLM movement in particular, is gathering force across the US. The success and growth of the BLM movement has resulted in a Republican-led crackdown on the right to protest.

So far 29 Republican states have made moves to introduce anti-protest laws. Swathes of new bills are being pushed by state legislatures - from Virginia to Washington State - in what has been described as a tsunamiof attacks on the right to protest. A gathering may be declared a ‘riot’ and participants charged with a felony - with convictions leading to imprisonment and a bar from holding public office. The message is clear - those who protest do so at their peril.

Whatever the outcome of the trial, one thing is certain: the killing of George Floyd was not the act of a single rogue officer any more than the killing of Daunte Wright was a one-off accident. Both deaths, and the hundreds that preceded them, are the result of a deeply racist and corrupt police force.

And as long as the killings continue so too will the protests. For the past two nights the streets of Minneapolis have echoed to the sounds of police crying Move back!” while the crowd chants back Hands up! Dont shoot!” The BLM movement is needed as much as ever, it should not and will not be silenced.



[1] Data complied by Bowling Green State University of Ohio.

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