High-ranking Congresswoman Maxine Waters has joined the ongoing protests in Brooklyn Center in Minneapolis, calling for an overhaul of policing in the United States and encouraging demonstrators to defy an emergency curfew imposed by the city.
Brooklyn Center has been the scene of anti-racism protests for seventh consecutive night over the death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old African American shot dead by a white policewoman.
Representative Waters, a Democrat from California, showed up around 10:30pm on Saturday to address the crowd in front of the Brooklyn Center police station with a brief and emotional speech.
“Policing has got to be changed,” Waters, who chairs the House Committee on Financial Services, said shortly before the 11 pm curfew.
The congresswoman said she did not recognize the curfew, which she said was put in place to silence the protesters.
“I don't think anything about curfew, I don't know what curfew means,” she said. “Curfew means that: ‘I want you all to stop talking, I want you to stop meeting, I want you to stop gathering.’ I don't agree with that.”
“We've got to reimagine how we can deal with the problems of our society, that young people and people of color in particular getting killed by police that we pay to protect and serve us,” she continued.
Protesters, holding Black Lives Matter signs, stood alongside the chain-link fence around the heavily-guarded police station, chanting “Shut It Down.”
On Friday night, the sixth night of the protests, a number of agitated protesters knocked down the fence and breached the perimeter. Police tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas grenades, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and long lines of riot police.
Wright was shot dead during a traffic stop after veteran officer Kim Potter apparently mistook her service firearm for a Taser, resulting in a fatal shooting that was caught on body camera.
Potter was arrested Wednesday on manslaughter charges and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
In addition to the Daunte Wright protests, Minneapolis is on edge this weekend with closing arguments expected Monday in the high-profile trial of Derek Chauvin, the white former police officer accused of killing African-American George Floyd, in the city last year.
Rep. Waters also shared her view on what protesters should do if Chauvin, who was caught on camera kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, is acquitted next week.
“We've got to stay on the streets. And we've got to get more active. We've got to get more confrontational. We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business,” she said.
The previous evening, journalists covering the protests said law enforcement impeded their work and used pepper spray against some members of the media.
The mistreatment came after a US district judge ruled that Minnesota state patrol could not arrest, threaten or target journalists covering the unrest.
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