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Mourners remember Daunte Wright, plead for justice

Wright was killed by a now-former Brooklyn Center police officer on April 11.

Hundreds of mourners remembered Daunte Wright at a memorial service Thursday, with Rev. Al Sharpton delivering the eulogy for the 20-year-old who was fatally shot by police on April 11.

Daunte Wright

Daunte Wright

Wright was fatally shot by now-former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter during a traffic stop, with his death spurring protests and even louder calls for police reform and accountability in Minnesota and nationwide. 

On Thursday at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in Minneapolis, Wright was remembered for who he was and as the latest Black man to be killed by police. 

Family, friends — many wearing red, some with shirts bearing Wright's name — and politicians, including Gov. Tim Walz, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Minnesota's U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, attended Wright's memorial service. 

Others in attendance included family members of other Black Minnesotans killed by police, including the family of George Floyd, Jamar Clark and Philando Castile. 

Wright was described as a "warm and loving person" who would do anything for his friends and family, a funeral card said. He was also a jokester, a beloved son, a loving father to 2-year-old Daunte Wright Jr., and a role model.

He was born in St. Paul and moved to Minneapolis when he was 7. He attended Edison High School, where he enjoyed playing basketball, the card adds. 

While a trumpet played, an artist painted Wright's likeness using white paint on a black canvas. 

In the music-filled service, prayers and speakers passionately called for justice and asked that this be a seed for change and policing reform. 

"Justice for Daunte Wright," attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Wright family, said during the service. He led those in attendance in chanting, "Daunte Wright's life mattered."

Crump called on Ellison's office to get justice for Wright as it did for George Floyd's family through the murder conviction of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin. 

In the eulogy, Sharpton said, "We must speak up when there is an injustice."

"There is a confusion in this country between peace and quiet," Sharpton said. "You can't tell us to shut up and suffer. We must speak up when there is an injustice."

Sharpton shared a story that someone commented they hadn't seen so many people for a funeral procession since Prince died five years ago.

"We come from all over the country because you hurt one of our princes," Sharpton said. "You thought he was just some kid with an air freshener but he was a prince."

Sharpton said they came as the "air fresheners of Minnesota" trying to get the stench of racial profiling and police brutality out of the air. He later remarked that "Minnesota, your tags have expired." 

Sharpton shared hope for the future, crediting Ellison in getting a conviction in Floyd's death, to which many cheered and stood to clap for the attorney general. 

He said "change is near" and a "breakthrough is coming," citing the tumbling of the "blue wall of silence" in court during Chauvin's trial in which officers testified against him.

"God has turned the page in Minnesota and we are never going back no more," Sharpton said, later adding that every crisis "must be answered with real change," referencing the Department of Justice's announcement it was investigating the Minneapolis Police Department after Chauvin's conviction.

Sharpton called for a new day where parents don't have to tell their kids what to do if they're stopped by police and people don't have to film every encounter with police. 

Of Wright, he said, "God will use you to straighten out the world."

Omar, Walz and Klobuchar also spoke during the service, discussing systemic racism and sharing promises for change.

A moment of silence

To mark the start of the service, Gov. Walz issued a proclamation asking Minnesotans to take a moment of silence from noon to 12:02 p.m.

"Daunte Wright was beloved by his family, neighbors, and community, and had his entire young life ahead of him. We mourn the loss of Daunte Wright, and as a state we offer our deepest condolences to the Wright family,” Walz's proclamation says. “We know that this tragedy is connected to the deep, systemic racism in our society that Black people in Minnesota and across the country face every single day. While nothing can bring Daunte Wright back to his loved ones, we must continue to work to enact real, meaningful change at the local, state, and national levels to fight systemic racism so that every person in Minnesota – Black, Indigenous, Brown, or White – can be safe and thrive. We must be steadfast in our accountability to change from the top to the bottom, and not rest until we create a different future for Daunte Wright’s son, and every other child like him."

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