Protests both peaceful and violent spread Wednesday beyond Minnesota, driven by the twin catalysts of the Daunte Wright shooting and the Derek Chauvin trial, as public officials sought to thwart the tide of unrest from engulfing their jurisdictions.
As Minneapolis-area authorities braced for a fourth night of rioting, protest activity late Tuesday in Portland, Oregon; Seattle; and Columbus, Ohio, as well as planned vigils and marches in other major U.S. cities, had local leadership and law enforcement issuing warnings and taking precautions.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that his office is in “constant, literally daily, conversations” with the New York Police Department about preparations for the aftermath of the Chauvin jury verdict in Minneapolis.
“Obviously so much of what will happen is based on what the verdict is and how it’s expressed, but we are preparing,” Mr. de Blasio told NY1. “We will be ready for a variety of protests.”
Charles “Cully” Stimson, deputy director of The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, predicted that unrest will follow whether Mr. Chauvin is convicted or acquitted on second- and third-degree murder charges stemming from the death of George Floyd.
“It’s a powder keg waiting to be lit, frankly,” Mr. Stimson said. “Unfortunately, the anti-police rhetoric around the country, in particular in Minneapolis, and the calls for defunding police at a time in cities where rogue or progressive prosecutors have been elected, is a double whammy.”
Fueling the outrage are Democrats such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who tweeted after Mr. Wright was fatally shot Sunday during a traffic stop that policing is “inherently & intentionally racist.” She called for an end to “policing, incarceration & militarization.”
In Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, the Minneapolis suburb where Mr. Wright was killed, Mayor Mike Elliott urged protesters Wednesday to remain peaceful after officers made 79 arrests the previous night on charges including rioting and unlawful assembly.
“I share our community’s anger and sadness and shock, and my message to all who are demanding justice for him and for his family is this: Your voices have been heard,” Mr. Elliott said. “Now the eyes of the world are watching Brooklyn Center, and I urge you to protest peacefully and without violence. Let’s show the best of our community.”
Booker Hodges, Minnesota assistant commissioner for public safety, showed some of the weapons thrown overnight at officers, including bricks, alcohol bottles and cans. “We’re just quite frankly not going to tolerate it,” he said.
One factor that could turn the tide: Washington County Attorney Pete Orput filed second-degree manslaughter charges against former Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter, who resigned Monday after Mr. Wright’s shooting.
The police chief described the shooting as a tragic accident based on the police body camera footage, which showed Officer Potter yell “Taser, Taser” before firing at the 20-year-old Mr. Wright, suggesting she accidentally deployed her handgun instead of her Taser.
After firing once, she is heard saying, “Holy s—-, I just shot him.”
Lawyer Ben Crump, who represents the Wright family, challenged the “accidental discharge” explanation. He said a 26-year veteran of the force “understands the difference between a Taser and a handgun.”
“While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back. This was no accident,” Mr. Crump said Wednesday in a statement. “This was an intentional, deliberate, and unlawful use of force.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, tweeted that “Daunte Wright’s killing was not a random, disconnected ‘accident’ — it was the repeated outcome of an indefensible system that grants impunity for state violence.”
Mr. Wright was pulled over Sunday for an expired registration tag, but it turns out he also had an outstanding warrant for aggravated armed robbery, a felony, in Osseo, Minnesota.
Hennepin County District Court documents show that he was accused of pointing a handgun at a woman and demanding $820, then choking her as he sought to grab the cash from her bra on Dec. 1, 2019, when he was 19.
Mr. Wright faced jail time for violating the conditions of his release, including a prohibition against firearms possession, which may explain why he resisted officers and jumped back into the driver’s seat as they tried to handcuff him, as shown on police body camera video.
Court documents also show that Mr. Wright had two misdemeanors on his record: an October 2019 conviction for possession/sale of a “small amount of marijuana,” and a February 2020 conviction for criminal disorderly conduct.
Protesters clashed with law enforcement Tuesday night in Columbus, as some sought to break into police headquarters, prompting the arrest of an Ohio State University student accused of hitting an officer with a wooden club.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine confirmed this week that discussions are taking place on protecting the state Capitol in Columbus, which took a beating last year during protests over the May 25 death of George Floyd. He did not offer details.
“We certainly stay in touch [with law enforcement],” Mr. DeWine said on ABC6. “I don’t talk about security publicly, but we certainly are very aware of what’s going on in that trial, and we’re aware of what other news is out there.”
In Portland, police declared a riot for the second straight night Tuesday as a crowd of about 100 people gathered for a “direct action,” setting fire to a trash can and the door frame of the Portland Police Association building.
Seattle police made three arrests after protesters gathered at the West Precinct station for a Daunte Wright vigil. In New York, demonstrators marched across the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan.
Minnesota state and local authorities mobilized for a show of force Tuesday after more than 20 stores in Brooklyn Center were looted and vandalized, but hundreds of protesters still showed up to clash with police.
“They see themselves as the pointy end of the chaos spear. They want the attention because they know that there’s a certain segment of society that thinks what they’re doing is right and just,” he said.
Defense attorneys called witnesses Wednesday after the prosecution rested in the trial of Mr. Chauvin, charged with three other officers in the May 25 death of the 46-year-old Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
“That’s why it would be not surprising if this police officer is convicted on everything and they riot, or if he’s acquitted, and they riot,” Mr. Stimson said. “Because the attention’s on them. They know all the cameras are going to expect to see them do something, and they’re doing it.”
⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.