Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney and lawyer for Daunte Wright’s family, asked hundreds of family members, friends, politicians and bystanders at a Minneapolis church to honor the 20-year-old who was killed by police by standing up and repeating the four words: La Daunte Wright’s life mattered.
Delivering Wright’s praise, as he did nearly a year ago for George Floyd, civil rights leader Al Sharpton referred to Wright as the “Prince of Brooklyn Center” – the Minneapolis suburb from which Wright hailed, and ultimately where died.
But it was Katie Wright, Daunte Wright’s mother, who stood in front of the white rose-draped coffin, where her son’s body lay, who said she never imagined this situation, that the roles should be reversed.
“My son should bury me,” she said in tears.
This was the range of messages heard at Wright’s funeral, which was a combination of emotional reflections from family members of the man they loved and demanding justice for the way he was killed.
The international ministries of the Shiloh temple were full. People wore masks but sat side by side to pay homage and cry. The wall supported video screens showing Wright’s images over the years, including some with his young son, Daunte Jr.
Funeral held near the intersection where George Floyd died
Wright’s funeral was held in a church in Minneapolis, about a 14-minute drive from the intersection where George Floyd was killed by former police officer Derek Chauvin last May. On Tuesday, a jury found Chauvin guilty of involuntary second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
For many members of the black community in and around Minneapolis, the shadow cast by Wright’s funeral is a sober reminder that Chauvin’s guilty verdicts were a temporary respite from the injustice they say they suffer at the hands of the city police.
Wright’s death during a traffic stop sparked protests outside the city police station, with some protesters throwing objects at officers who sometimes responded with gas and rubber bullets before clearing the scene with a riot line.
Brooklyn Center police said they stopped Wright because his vehicle registration had expired and found he had a warrant pending. Footage of a police-worn camera released after the shooting showed Wright slipping out of an officer’s grip as he tried to handcuff him and take him back to the car. Then another officer is heard saying: “I’ll talk to you. Taser! Taser! Taser!” before shooting Wright.
The officer, Kim Potter, who said he intended to shoot his Taser, not his pistol, resigned from the force and was charged with second degree manslaughter in connection with Wright’s death.
Crump, in his “request for justice”, referred to Potter, and to Daunte’s mother and father and asked them if Potter saw their child as she saw hers.
If he did, he said, “then I don’t think he would ever have taken a Taser, much less a gun.”
Sharpton said someone had told him they hadn’t seen such a funeral procession since the death of pop musician Prince.
“Well, we came to bury the prince of the Brooklyn Center,” Sharpton said.
But he drew attention to the police, urging them to train their officers: “Train the people. Don’t confuse the taser guns. Train the people. Don’t put your knees on people’s necks for nine minutes and 29 seconds.”
“Minnesota’s Air Fresheners”
Sharpton’s praise included a stinging rebuke at the possibility that Wright had been stopped for having air fresheners dangling from the mirror. Wright’s mother said her son called her after he was stopped and told her that was why he was stopped.
Police say it was due to expired registration.
“We come today as air fresheners for Minnesota,” Sharpton said, vowing changes in federal law were on the way. “We are trying to eliminate the stench of police brutality from the atmosphere. We are trying to eliminate the stench of racism from the atmosphere. We are trying to eliminate the stench of racial profiling from the atmosphere.
“We come to Minnesota as air fresheners because your air is too smelly for us to breathe,” he said. “We can’t breathe your stinking air anymore!”
But the most emotional moments of the funeral came from Wright’s family.
Her mother Katie Wright said she sat until 3:30 am, thinking about what she would say about her son.
He described him as someone who had a smile “worth a million dollars”, which “lit up the room”.
He was loved like a brother, a joker, loved by many, he said.
He talked about his son becoming his own father, that his son Daunte Jr, now two, brought so much life to his son’s life.
“She lived for him every single day. And now she won’t be able to see him.”
Wright’s six brothers also appeared on the podium, but only two spoke. His brother Dallas also talked about his brother’s smile and how much he will miss him.
And his sister Monica said she “didn’t have enough time with him.”
“I wish I had enough. I didn’t tell him I love him before he left. He didn’t deserve it. Everyone loved him so much. He had love for everyone.”