“My son should be burying me,” said Katie Wright through tears at the homegoing service for her son Daunte Wright who was shot and killed on April 11 by former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter. He lit up the room, said Katie Wright as she described her son as a jokester. She told the audience that the birth of Daunte’s son “was the joy of his life.”
“Words can’t explain how I feel,” said Wright’s distraught father Aubrey Wright.
Hundreds of mourners, including family, friends, community, activists, families who have lost loved ones to police violence, and the national press, packed Shiloh Temple International Ministries in North Minneapolis on Friday afternoon as yet another victim of police violence was laid to rest. Relatives of Daunte Wright numbered in the dozens as they filed quietly into the sanctuary.
Minneapolis had just briefly celebrated the conviction of former officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd. The victory was viewed by many as a victory brought on by the vigilance of the community that took to the streets and consistently demanded that Chauvin be brought to justice.
Lending support to the Wright family were relatives of others killed by police, including relatives of Floyd, Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, Kobe Dimock- Heisler, Justin Teigen, Hardel Sherrell, Breonna Taylor as well as Cephus Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant. Grant was killed on January 1, 2009, as a result of a law enforcement officer supposedly mistaking a taser for a gun.
The homegoing service was as spirited as one would expect from a Black church.
“Oh, freedom, Oh, freedom, Oh freedom over me. And before I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be free,” began the soloist. The words filled the tavern-like worship center and set the tone for a mournful yet defiant service.
“We come to bury the prince of Brooklyn Center. Daunte Wright is a prince. All of Minneapolis has stopped today to honor our prince,” said Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton acknowledged the families of victims of police violence and thanked them and local activists for their efforts in getting justice for Floyd and their efforts to get justice for Wright.
In his eulogy, Sharpton reminded folks that they couldn’t read the Bible and not understand that God is on the side of the oppressed. “God has turned the page in the state of Minnesota and we are not going back,” he said.
“We come today as the air fresheners for Minnesota,” said Sharpton riffing on the fact that Wright was told initially that he was pulled over for having an air freshener in his rearview mirror. “We’re trying to get the stench of police brutality out of the atmosphere. We’re trying to get the stench of racism out of the atmosphere. We’re trying to get the stench of racial profiling out of the atmosphere. Your air is too odorous for us to breathe. We can’t breathe in your stinking air no more,” he said.
Sharpton said he is often questioned about the nature of protests and if they are going to be non-violent. “When are you gonna tell policemen to stop being violent?!” he asked.
Many elected officials attended the funeral, including MN Attorney General Keith Ellison, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) who read a proclamation. Klobuchar’s presence and words denouncing police violence, racial profiling, and racism struck a sour note with some in attendance. Klobuchar had come under fire during her presidential run last year when it was revealed that during her time as Hennepin County Attorney, her prosecution of Myon Burrell in the shooting death of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards may have been a mistake at best and a frame-up at worst.
Proclamations were also read by U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) and Gov. Tim Walz who called for a statewide moment of silence in honor of Wright from 12:00 to 12:02 pm.
“Our heart is broken with yours as we come to lay him to rest,” said civil rights attorney Ben Crump addressing Wright’s parents. “But, most importantly, we celebrate his life. Daunte Wright’s life mattered.”