In daylight, Humboldt Avenue is nothing like the chaotic battlefield it turns into after dark.
Cars and trucks race the wide suburban road in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. There are apartments, a church and a secondary school. And a police station.
The police station, now separated from the avenue by a fence, has been the focal point of protests for five nights after an officer murdered a black man last Sunday – just 21 miles north of where another former officer is on trial for a black man. kill a man.
The death of Daunte Wright, 20, comes as Minneapolis is already bracing for a verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial on charges of killing George Floyd last May. Floyd’s death sparked protests for racial justice around the world.
“When I saw it and heard it, I said, ‘Not again,’” said Annette Combs, who works near Humboldt, of her reaction when she learned of Wright’s death.
When it is dark, the avenue is lit by floodlights. National Guard jeeps and armored vehicles block access from the south. There’s a cacophony of flashy bangs, tear gas and rubber bullets from law enforcement officers, and fireworks from protesters. Police have arrested dozens for violating a city-imposed curfew.
Pastor Simeon Momanyi was in the middle of it, his house wedged between his church, the Kenyan Community Seventh Day Adventist and the police station. The past days have been tough for him and his flock.
“When George Floyd was killed it was traumatic for a lot of people,” he said. “It’s been a year and people are almost getting over it. There were a lot of demonstrations. [You think] police, when they deal with black people, people of color, they will be careful. And then suddenly again. The same city, the same place. Something has happened again. “
Brooklyn Center, just north of Minneapolis, is a racially diverse, middle-class suburb of 31,000 with a large immigrant population. African supermarkets and restaurants are on the commercial strips. The median household income is $ 60,000, and many residents work in the industry.
On 63rd Avenue and Kathrene Drive, one block from where Wright was shot, the humble one-story houses are lined with siding. Mourners have built a shrine for him there: a huge, heavenly fist similar to the one at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis. It is surrounded by banks of roses, lilies, daffodils and Gerbera daisies. Electric tea lights spell “DAUNTE”.
“This is crazy, man,” one man said Thursday afternoon. “Just a young king growing up.”
Max Madyun and Daniel Retic, students at Brooklyn Center High School, are just a few years younger than Wright. They protested on Thursday with their peers on the sports fields of the school across the street from the police station. As young black men, they both learned to change their behavior in the police force, move slowly, and answer all questions.
“It sucks, but we want to live our lives,” said Retic.
“It’s like nature: I see a police officer, I have to do that,” added Madyun. “But then you see things like this that make you think,” I shouldn’t be doing that. This isn’t normal. “
In the past few days, the sun has set “normally” on Humboldt. Five yellow ServiceMaster vans to clean up fire and water damage were parked in front of a Dollar Tree that was set on fire Monday night.
Alhagie Njie runs his family’s grocery store, Value Foods African Market, a few doors down in the same mall. He feared the fire would spread to their building.
Hakeem Miller lives in an apartment next to the mall and across the street from the police station. He said he pushed furniture against the windows to protect his four children.
“It’s been chaos,” he said. “My children, they ask if we die.”
On Tuesday evening the temperature was below freezing and the police had batons. The Minnesota State Patrol had begun flying north on Humboldt, declaring on a loudspeaker that the protesters were breaking curfews and that they should disperse or be arrested.
Breanna Eaglefather has lost close friends to police brutality. But the reason she started protesting as soon as she heard the news, and went out the next night, and the next night, was her 10-year-old biracial son. She wants to protect him.
“I have a personal responsibility,” she said.