Police tactics change on fifth night of Brooklyn Center unrest

University-area Council members joined a resolution opposing the use of “less-lethal” weapons against protesters.

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J.D. Duggan

Brooklyn Center is still reeling from the police killing of Daunte Wright. On the fifth day of unrest outside the police department, protesters latched umbrellas and tarp to the barricade surrounding the building.

Lydia Morrell

For the first night since Sunday, law enforcement did not use any less-lethal weapons on a crowd of about 300 protesters in front of the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Thursday.

On Thursday morning, multiple Minneapolis City Council members and other local leaders sent a letter to Operation Safety Net — the multi-jurisdictional public safety force that has led the response — condemning the militarized posture against protesters. Police used tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and flash-bangs on protesters for days after the police killing of Daunte Wright.

The letter mirrored the Brooklyn Center City Council resolution that also opposes using less-lethal weapons for crowd control. Friday morning, Minneapolis City Council passed its own resolution, led by Ward 2 City Council member Cam Gordon.

“The Brooklyn Center City Council passed a resolution like this that was being ignored,” Ward 3 council member Steve Fletcher said. “We added our voices to that, and we hope that it gives them support to start getting different tactics and different outcomes.”

It’s unclear if the letter and resolutions impacted police tactics. Law enforcement had also added a second fence in front of the police department, and officers did not engage with the crowd. Officials gave no dispersal orders Thursday, and the crowd largely cleared out around 11 p.m.

Twin Cities activists have repeatedly condemned law enforcement’s frequent use of less-lethal weapons for crowd control, especially as tear gas blanketed apartment buildings near the police department.

Shawna Rascoe, who lives nearby with her two kids, said a few of the tear gas canisters had fallen onto her porch and leaked into her apartment. When asked about her kids, she said, “They’ve been terrified, but they’re happy to be a part of this. They’re a part of history; that’s what they keep saying.”

Kim Potter, the officer who killed Wright, has resigned and was charged with second-degree manslaughter, which is also one of the charges against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

“I’m still waiting for [Brooklyn Center city officials] to not accept her resignation and to call for murder charges,” organizer D.J. Hooker said. “I want them to start talking about systemic change and make sure that this doesn’t happen again, since this is an ongoing problem in Brooklyn Center where they kill people.”

Before the citywide curfew went into effect Thursday night, members of Minnesota Freedom Fighters, a community security organization, wandered through the crowd, warning that once the curfew went into effect, “we can’t protect you.”

The group policed the crowd, often aggressively stopping people after throwing objects at officers or shaking the fence surrounding the police department.

The Minnesota Freedom Fighters formed as a group to protect parts of Minneapolis from looting and fires after the police killing of George Floyd last May, MPR News reported. They have been in contact with Minneapolis police precinct commanders, and the City Council previously considered employing them as a civilian crime patrol, the Star Tribune reported.

Some activists on social media expressed frustration with the group’s actions at the protest and said they were suspicious of the group’s role.