NEWSLETTER WEEK 46 – APRIL 14, 2021
It is with extremely heavy hearts we’re starting this week’s newsletter. By now you’ve seen the news that Daunte Wright was shot by an officer during a traffic stop Sunday night. The lump in our chest just cannot be dislodged this week: Daunte Wright was twenty years old, father to a two year old, and had just called his mother before he was killed.
Before you read three white girls’ takes on the issue, we really encourage you to read Roxane Gay’s piece about Black trauma and the way Black creators are being robbed of the space to create things that don’t center whiteness or grief, in light of Daunte Wright’s murder.
If you’re interested in helping out Daunte’s child’s mother, Chyna Whitaker, you can send money via Cashapp to $hubby98 to Chyna directly or via Venmo to @thuy-jones or Paypal @holisticheaux (friends forwarding the money to Chyna). If you would prefer to share your wealth with the rest of Daunte Wright’s family, we encourage you to send money to his family’s GoFundMe.
Because we know we’re all coming from different vantage points and algorithms sharing with us information about this tragedy, we want to point out some particularly harrowing details about Officer Kim Potter’s behavior (and that of the rest of the local police force) that you may not have yet read:
- Potter was a 26 year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Force. That would mean she had been a cop for six years before Daunte was even born.
- Potter had served as the president of her local police union as well as a long-time member of the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association, where she served on the “casket team,” an honor guard duty where she would function as a pallbearer or guard for law enforcement funerals.
- This was not Potter’s first “officer-involved shooting” — In 2019, Potter was among the first to arrive at the scene after officers shot and killed a mentally ill man multiple times after he allegedly lunged at them with a knife. At that scene, she told her fellow officers to turn off their body cameras and conducted all investigations internally, as at the time she was serving as the union president. No charges were ever filed; Potter found that the officers under her acted with “reasonable fear.”
- Like many officers in Minneapolis and cities of similar demographics, Potter and her family live in a different Minneapolis suburb than the one she works within.
- Potter was a field training officer, who was training a brand new copon Sunday when she killed Daunte Wright.
- The Brooklyn Center Police Force claims Potter was reaching for her taser and “didn’t mean” to lethally shoot Wright.
- The Brooklyn Center Police Station raised a ‘Thin Blue Line’ flagfollowing the shooting underneath their high-flying American flag.
We share this information not to draw attention away from Daunte Wright and his family and divert it to the person who killed him but instead to make note of some pretty blatant systemic factors that contributed to his death. This isn’t the story of a “bad apple,” this is the story of an ecosystem filled to the brim with carbon monoxide — you may not personally be able to see or smell the danger but that doesn’t change the absolute poison of the situation. Officer Potter wasn’t someone who lacked experience or training: she was the training. She wasn’t unable to tell the difference between a gun and a taser; she had helped her officers evade scrutiny or consequence for a prior shooting.
It doesn’t matter whether Daunte Wright had committed a crime or not, he should not be dead. Period. However, because you will hear about the outstanding warrant, it feels necessary to contextualize: this “warrant” was over unpaid fines for 3 minor misdemeanors — a marijuana case, cursing in public, and failing to appear at a remote hearing — all totaling $346. He pled guilty, filed for deferred payment and his bills were sent to collections during a global pandemic. At the time of the killing, he was driving his mother’s car so there was no way for the officers to know that he even had a warrant. He was pulled over for an item (car air fresheners) illegally hanging from his rearview mirror. He was killed by an overzealous officer, brain soaked in propaganda about being the “thin blue line” of authority, cloaked in the knowledge that the harm done by others wearing badges matching hers has gone undisciplined, literally vested in immunity under the law for her own prior harms, emboldened by a legal system constructed to uphold the norms of white supremacy.
We were already planning to talk about policing and racism this week but in light of another absolutely gut wrenching death at the hands of cops, we want to work backwards & start with action items. We’re going to push off our history lesson (and further rant about police being the literal enforcement agents of racism) until Friday and instead talk about what we can do. Historical honesty is so important; making space for grief, reflection, and present tense action is urgent.
WHAT WE CAN DO
This is an incomplete list inspired by and largely derived from @chloecockburn’s thread of a similar nature. If you want more info specifically pertaining to your locale, email us and we can help do some research.
We know that the work of true justice means ultimately chipping away at white supremacy. In the immediate tense, this means chipping away at police power in our communities: first and foremost, stop calling the cops. We realize there are situations that predicate calling the cops because we don’t have others to call yet, however, we would venture that for the vast majority of our readers, there are few situations that necessitate officer involvement and fewer that officers would *actually* be helpful within.
NYC friends, save the not911.nyc page to your phone’s home screen. Friends in other major metropolitan areas, visit dontcallthepolice.com to find community-based alternatives. Don’t live in a city mentioned there? Look up alternatives in your area (Emily made this graphic of options for her city in June, she’d be happy to help make a list for your hometown, too!).
The longer term goals of upending white supremacy via policing:
- Increase police oversight and transparency
- Reduce the number of things that are crimes triggering police interaction (changing laws, changing the actual prosecutors applying those laws, and changing prosecutorial discretion standards and norms)
- Shift responsibility for certain situations like mental health crises, meeting needs of unhoused folks, and potential drug overdose to non-police response.
- Invest in building social and political power in Black and brown communities and invest in them to build safety solutions that work for them
- Support families whose loved ones have died in police custody and detention of any kind
- And the one that’s most important for us to keep in mind: follow the leadership of directly impacted people.
One way we can do this is by demanding our local prosecutors (also known as a District Attorney or Solicitor) to eliminate misdemeanor prosecutions. Recent research has shown that not only does eliminating misdemeanor prosecutions keep people out of jail but reduces overall crime. Real Justice PAC runs campaigns to get prosecutors elected who will reduce overall prosecutions, decline to punish protestors, and levy actual consequences against police for misconduct.
We can also do this by supporting existing initiatives:
- In San Antonio, TX FIX SAPD is running a ballot initiative to end the impunity of police officers by changing collective bargaining and discipline rules in the city. The campaign needs money to close a funding gap.
- In Austin, TX Proposition B aims to re-criminalize homelessness, creating more opportunities for lethal police encounters. The Home Not Handcuffs campaign is fighting to defeat the measure.
- In the Eugene-Springfield, OR Metropolitan area, the CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On the Streets) program is a mobile crisis assistance program that operates as an alternative to calling the cops. Tell your local officials you want them to model a similar program off of this one for your locale (Emily’s trying to draft something like this for her home – want to share ideas?)
- In Los Angeles, CA, Justice LA Now serves as a coalition of organizers in Los Angeles that just won a big oversight measure, defeated a giant jail construction project, and is pushing the county to implement alternatives to the criminal justice system.
- In Philadelphia, PA, the Bread and Roses Fund partners with a number of groups working to deflate the bloated police budget and direct the money back to the most affected communities.
- Across the country, Abolition Apostles connects people harmed by incarceration with penpals
And by deferring to leadership of people most harmed by racism & the carceral system:
- Essie Justice Group – supporting women whose loved ones are incarcerated and harmed by police violence related to incarceration
- Project Nia – works to end police intervention and incarceration of children and adults by promoting restorative and transformative practices.
- Life Comes From It – a grantmaking organization that funds grassroots movement-building projects related to restorative justice led by communities of color.
- The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls – organizes and equips women to seek leadership positions in their communities and eliminate criminal punishment interventions.
Resources for Teachers Supporting Students
If you are a teacher or anyone who works with kids in the midst of these tragedies, talk to them about it. Learning for Justice has some phenomenal resources to help you get started.
We don’t know where else to link this staggering, punchy piece by Michael Harriot, but if you’re still not sure, Maybe America is Racist. Maybe. Just maybe.
Take care of yourself and your loved ones this week. We leave you with this powerful lyric video from A.D. Carson, just in case.
Ellie, Emily, and Hayden