Following the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center at the hands of police officers, communities across the state have rallied together in support of the Wright family and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement. Students from St. Olaf and Carleton have joined in support, organizing multiple donation drives to provide resources to activists and communities affected by the protests and unrest.
On April 11, Wright was shot and killed by Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter during a traffic stop. Potter resigned from the police station the following Tuesday, and she was arrested Wednesday and charged with second degree manslaughter. Potter was released the same day following a $100,000 bail.
Every night since Wright’s death, protestors have occupied space outside the Brooklyn Center Police Station as well as the intersection where Wright was shot. Despite ongoing curfews in Brooklyn Center, protestors continue to gather and call for abolition and reform. In response to the nightly crowds, the state of Minnesota has deployed national guard, state troops and police from across the state to Brooklyn Center. With the largest police presence in the state’s history, Brooklyn Center protestors have been met with tear gas, flash bangs and rubber bullets.
On campus, Black community members grieved yet another Black life lost to police brutality. Interim Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Director of the Taylor Center María C. Pabón Gautier sent an email to campus on April 12, offering resources for community support as well as Taylor Center events for students such as creating luminaries or lighting a candle in the chapel.
Local organizers and activists have called for resources to support both the protestors and residents affected by the continued unrest. In an attempt to engage with the movement and show solidarity with the Brooklyn Center community, St. Olaf student Ella Panchot ’22 partnered with Northfield organization Say Their Names to host an organization drive. The Black Student Alliance (BSA) at Carleton College hosted a donation drive on Carleton’s campus through the weekend of April 15.
These efforts come as a way to bridge the 52 mile distance between the Twin Cities suburb of Brooklyn Center and the small town of Northfield. With COVID-19 restrictions discouraging students from participating in protests, students like Panchot are looking for ways to support the community affected by Wright’s killing.
“I was looking at the protests and I felt like St. Olaf was so isolated from what was going on,” Panchot said. “I wanted to give an opportunity for people who care about Black Lives Matter and support the community but aren’t really sure how and I wanted to help be that link.”
Protestors haven’t been the only ones affected by the police presence and nightly unrest. Nearby residents in houses and apartments have experienced the on-going clash between police and protesters. With chemical irritants like tear gas entering windows and apartment buildings and the loud noises of flash bangs, residents sheltering inside have faced a week of violence within their own homes. Residents have also reported tear gas canisters being shot onto residential porches and apartment buildings. The police and national guard presence has blocked many from entering their own homes, creating a tense and hostile environment for many Brooklyn Center residents.
Both drives requested materials for residents and protestors, asking for medical essentials, non-perishable food and other necessities like masks, diapers and umbrellas.
Panchot partnered with local organization Say Their Names Northfield, to bring the event to life. Say Their Names Northfield was founded in the summer of 2020, following the murder of George Floyd by former police officer, Derek Chauvin. The organization hosts events, also known as interventions, where community members write the names of those killed by police in chalk, host speakers and remember historical figures.
Lisa Sexton, a member of Say Their Names Northfield, helped to provide a location for the drive at First United Church of Christ. The drive raised three carloads full of supplies, and supporters dropped off the resources on April 21 to the Brooklyn Center Non-profit, CAPI USA.
According to the CAPI USA webpage, the organization focuses on helping immigrants, refugees and people of color connect with any resources they need. Their resources range from basic needs like food to providing assistance with health insurance and career planning.
Panchot hopes to continue to host drives throughout the year, providing continual assistance to the Brooklyn Center and the Twin Cities area even if protests fade.
“I hope to do this every month or as people are willing, after protests there will still be a need,” Panchot said. “We shouldn’t just be donating when someone is murdered.”