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Sharpton decries ‘stench of racism’ in Wright’s death

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Daunte Wright, the young Black man shot by an officer during a traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis, was not “just some kid with an air freshener,” but a “prince” whose life ended too soon at the hands of police, the Rev. Al Sharpton said Thursday during an emotional funeral.

Hundreds of people wearing COVID-19 masks packed into Shiloh Temple International Ministries to remember Wright, a 20-year-old father of one who was shot by a white police officer on April 11 in the small city of Brooklyn Center. The funeral was held just two days after former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted in the death of George Floyd and amid a national reckoning on racism and policing.

“The absence of justice is the absence of peace,” Sharpton said. “You can’t tell us to shut up and suffer. We must speak up when there is an injustice.”

The civil rights leader’s thundering eulogy included a stinging rebuke of the possibility that Wright was pulled over for having air fresheners dangling from his mirror. Wright’s mother has said her son called her after he was stopped and told her that was the reason. Police said it was for expired registration.

“We come today as the air fresheners for Minnesota,” Sharpton said, vowing changes in federal law. “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.

“We come to Minnesota as air fresheners because your air is to odorous for us to breathe,” he said.” We can’t breathe in your stinking air no more!”

Brooklyn Center’s police chief said it appeared from body camera video that the officer who shot Wright used her pistol when she meant to use her Taser as Wright struggled with police. The 26-year veteran, Kim Potter, is charged with second-degree manslaughter. Both she and the chief resigned after the shooting.

Ben Crump, attorney for both the Floyd and Wright families, has called for more serious charges against Potter and said Wright’s son “is going to get old enough to watch that video of how his father was slain so unnecessarily. A misdemeanor, a misdemeanor.”

“It’s too often that traffic stops end up as deadly sentences, a death sentence,” Crump said, adding he wants Wright’s son to know, “We stood up for Daunte, his father.”

Daunte’s mother, Katie Wright, told mourners, “The roles should be completely reversed. My son should be burying me,” before burying her hands in her face.

Wright recalled her son becoming a father to a boy born prematurely: “He was so happy and so proud, and he said he couldn’t wait to make his son proud. Junior was the joy of his life. He lived for him every single day.”

Funeral attendees were brought to their feet when artist Ange Hillz painted a portrait of Wright — white paint on a black canvas — as trumpeter Keyon Harrold played “Amazing Grace” and “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” the Black national anthem.

And during a silent reading of Wright’s obituary, some could be heard crying softly.

The families of several other Black people killed by police were there, too, including the mothers of Philando Castile, who was shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb in 2016, and Eric Garner, who was filmed saying “I can’t breathe” in a fatal 2014 encounter with New York City police.

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