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Rip It Out To the Studs: This Was No Accident

Abby Zimet


More protests. Photo by AFP/Getty

In a small, scant step toward justice, former Minnesota cop Kim Potter has been arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter for killing Daunte Wright, 20, during a "traffic stop" - for black people in the U.S., the sinister set-up for what AOC calls "the repeated outcome of an indefensible system that grants immunity for state violence." Police in Brooklyn Center, outside of Minneapolis, ostensibly pulled Wright over Sunday afternoon for an expired tag, or for the air freshener dangling from his mirror, or hey for just driving while black; once they stopped him and found there was a warrant out for him, a clusterfuck of an inept scramble ensued during which Potter, 48, yelled "Taser!" but fatally shot Wright in the chest, because even though she'd been a police officer for 26 years she still somehow mistook her gun for her much-lighter, bright-colored taser on her other side. Potter resigned Tuesday; she is being held at Hennepin County Jail without bail and faces a possible 10-year prison term for causing a death by "culpable negligence." Her gun/taser mix-up story, which echoes the police version of the killing of Oscar Grant in 2009, has been met with fury and skepticism by Wright's family - his father David: "I cannot accept that" - and lawyers. "This was no accident," they argue. "This was an intentional, deliberate and unlawful use of force... Kim Potter executed Daunte (for) no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanor warrant." A city already on edge awaiting the outcome of Derek Chauvin's trial - another white cop killing another black guy - erupted again; in more proof of the stunning inability of law enforcement to learn from the past, police stubbornly unaware of a First Amendment threatened to arrest media.

Of course, their culpability didn't stop there. In a response so heinous even he acknowledged it would be "an unpopular" view, the thug who heads Minnesota's police union blamed Wright for his own death by citing "non-compliance by the public" - which is why the union will fund Potter's defense (like Chauvin's), and why people of color argue America's "criminal justice" system is founded on the obscene question, "How much would it cost for you to let me live?" Given Potter's 26 heedless years on the force, they also argue policing in this country "isn't working," and "you might as well rip it out to the studs and rebuild it" - starting with proper training on racial equity: "Otherwise we get Billy Bob and Sally Sue with a GED & gun." In devastating  proof of the collective trauma endured across black communities and generations, Wright's killing has connected disparate, barely-six-degrees-of-separation victims: George Floyd's brother Philonise joined the Wright family to declare, "We will fight for justice"; Floyd's girlfriend Courtney Ross taught Daunte Wright; Caron Nazario saw Eric Garner, who he called "Uncle," get killed by police; Black Panther Fred Hampton's activism was sparked by the murder of Emmett Till, whose babysitter was Hampton's mother. Through all these linked tragedies, writes LZ Granderson, black people have labored to solve or at least not trigger white racism, though it wasn't their job. "All Floyd needed to do was be one of the good ones," he notes, but "the crisis is not about one incident, one person or one city," and nothing changes. Ultimately, he cites a truth from Chinua Achebe: “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

Charles Blow on his "inextinguishable rage" that our "systems of law enforcement, criminal justice and communal consciousness have adjusted themselves to a banal barbarism" that is police killings of unarmed black people: "A society that treats this much Black death at the hands of the state as collateral damage in a just war on crime has no decorum to project. That society is savage."



Getty Image


Bodycam footage


A protester who got teargassed and came back. Reuters photo


Daunte's aunt Naisha Wright. Getty



Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. 

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