Mourners gathered Thursday in Minneapolis for the funeral of Daunte Wright, just two days after a jury there convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of the murder of George Floyd.
Wright was the 20-year-old Black man shot and killed by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minn., while resisting arrest during a traffic stop earlier this month. Officials characterized the shooting as “accidental,” saying the officer, Kim Potter, meant to use her Taser on Wright but mistakenly drew her handgun instead.
Body camera footage, released by Brooklyn Center officials the day after the shooting, showed Potter shouting, “Taser, Taser, Taser!” just before she fires her handgun. She resigned from her position and has since been charged with second-degree manslaughter.
Wright’s death, which took place as the Chauvin trial was underway at a courthouse just 10 miles away, immediately prompted protests and outcry.
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Thursday’s funeral was held at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in north Minneapolis, where members of Wright’s family spoke, along with the Rev. Al Sharpton and several high-ranking Minnesota Democrats.
“I never imagined I’d be standing here. The roles should be completely reversed. My son should be burying me,” said Katie Wright, Daunte’s mother, speaking in front of the closed white coffin piled with red roses.
The Wright family was joined in mourning by family members and loved ones of other Black people killed in high-profile encounters with police, including those of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile and Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old Black man killed on the Fruitvale BART platform in Oakland, Calif., whose case has drawn comparisons to Wright’s because the officer said at his trial he mistook his handgun for his Taser.
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Sharpton, who memorably eulogized Floyd last year, delivered a tribute Thursday, recalling someone remarking they’d not seen a funeral procession so large in Minneapolis since the death of Prince.
“I said, ‘Well, we came to bury the prince of Brooklyn Center,’ ” Sharpton said. “You thought he was just some kid with an air freshener. He was a prince. And all of Minneapolis today has stopped to honor the prince of Brooklyn Center.”
The reason for the traffic stop that ended in Wright’s death has been disputed.
According to Wright’s mother, whom Wright called for advice during the traffic stop as officers were reviewing his license and registration, her son told her they stopped him over an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror, which is a minor infraction in Minnesota. Officials said they stopped Wright over expired license registration tags.
Now, air fresheners have become a symbol of Wright’s death. Protesters have tied them to the fence erected outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
“We come today as the air fresheners for Minnesota. We trying to get the stench for police brutality out of the atmosphere. We trying to get the stench of racism out of the atmosphere,” Sharpton said. “We can’t breathe in your stinking air no more.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton delivers the eulogy Thursday at Daunte Wright’s funeral. “You thought he was just some kid with an air freshener. He was a prince,” Sharpton said.
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Sharpton and Benjamin Crump, the prominent civil rights attorney who is representing Wright’s family, called on Congress to pass the police reform bill bearing Floyd’s name as a row of Minnesota politicians, all Democrats, sat behind them onstage, including Gov. Tim Walz, state Attorney General Keith Ellison, Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, whose district includes Brooklyn Center.
“We have to fight for our children until hell freezes, then we have to be prepared to fight on the ice,” Crump said. “They too have a right to life and liberty and the American dream.”
Klobuchar said, “We have to change the status quo so that driving while Black doesn’t result in getting shot. This is the urgent task before us.”
Because Wright’s death occurred during Chauvin’s trial, family and activists worried aloud that it meant little had changed since the nationwide wave of protests over Floyd’s death.
Sharpton praised the Chauvin guilty verdict and the work of Ellison, whose office handled the prosecution.
“God has turned the page in the state of Minnesota, and we’re never going back no more,” Sharpton said to applause.
President Joe Biden needs the help of the powerful farm industry to reach his sky-high climate goals. But his plans for cutting agricultural emissions might not have enough teeth to take a big bite out of global warming.
Biden on Thursday pledged a drastic reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. But the White House hasn’t set any specific targets yet for agriculture, which accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. emissions, according to the EPA. Those discharges mostly stem from fertilizers, livestock and manure.
“To be realistic, the administration has to look at cutting some of the existing emissions,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), who sits on the House Agriculture Committee. “We are going to have to talk about cutting emissions from farms and changing some of the practices.”
The administration has steered clear of discussing stricter environmental regulations that could scare off the largely conservative farm sector, as well as the rural lawmakers that Biden will need to advance many of his environmental goals. Farmers have been slow to wake up to the reality of climate change, though increasingly extreme weather of late has hammered farm country and forced a reckoning.
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A summary of Biden’s climate pledge notes that agriculture is both a source of greenhouse gases and potentially a key piece of the solution by capturing and storing heat-trapping carbon dioxide in forests and farmland. Environmental advocates, like the left-leaning Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, say the White House needs to address both sides of that equation to make a dent in global warming.
“It’s difficult to make concrete pledges in terms of using ag as a carbon sink,” said Ben Lilliston, the institute’s director of rural strategies and climate change. “You can be more concrete around reducing fertilizer use [and] trying to address emissions around these large-scale hog and dairy operations.”
So far, the Biden administration is leaning heavily toward awarding financial bonuses for farmers, ranchers and foresters who retool their operations to suck carbon from the atmosphere. The White House blueprint specifically calls for “incentives” to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions through new farm practices and technologies.
“We are making an aggressive reduction target for the country,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Thursday during a briefing with reporters. “Part of our effort will focus on enhancing climate-smart agricultural practices, the development of biofuels, carbon capture and sequestration, better forest management and reforestation.”
An especially thorny topic that could draw huge resistance from farmers and ranchers is what to do about methane emissions from cows and other livestock. The industry and many farm-state lawmakers have slammed efforts by politicians to promote “Meatless Mondays” or other programs aimed at reducing meat consumption for environmental reasons.
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Vilsack hinted at the carbon footprint of meat and dairy production on Thursday, suggesting that methane emissions can be addressed by helping livestock producers adopt innovations, such as feed additives that cut the amount of methane belched out by cows, or technology to capture noxious gases from manure pits and convert them into an energy source.
The Biden administration’s cautious rhetoric is a product of the tenuous partnership between environmentalists and major farm industry groups that are increasingly open to taking on climate change through voluntary efforts and incentives.
It’s also in Biden’s political interest to stay in the good graces of the powerful ag sector. While farmers and ranchers make up a small fraction of the population, agriculture remains central to the rural economy and politics. That’s especially true in key battleground states such as Iowa, North Carolina and Wisconsin, which are home to massive livestock and dairy operations.
Farmers made up a central piece of former President Donald Trump’s base, and he frequently bragged about repaying his supporters by flooding the industry with unprecedented taxpayer subsidies. Biden has tried to make inroads in rural communities, but his climate agenda remains a source of skepticism.
“They really have been very careful in the language they use,” Lilliston said. “They’re definitely taking a non-confrontational, non-regulatory approach.”
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Lilliston also doubts that carbon sequestration or methane capture technologies will be as effective as Vilsack and other officials hope. “It’s going to be hard to shift U.S. agriculture when you have one particular model — we would call it a factory farm model — that is dominant and is allowed to evade a lot of regulations,” he said.
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Industry groups say farmers are stepping up efforts to limit the climate impact of their operations. For example, the National Pork Producers Council in January launched a “Farming Today for Tomorrow” campaign to tout the sector’s shrinking carbon footprint compared with previous decades. The American Farm Bureau Federation marked Earth Day on Thursday by promoting farmers and ranchers “leading the way in climate-smart practices that reduce emissions, enrich the soil and protect our water and air.”
Pingree, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee and the appropriations panel that oversees USDA’s budget, has called for a balanced approach to nudging the industry toward more climate-friendly practices.
“I really don’t think it’s either/or,” she said. “USDA is interested in finding ways to combine these, so that we aren’t just pointing our fingers at farmers and saying, ‘It’s all your fault. You fix the problem.’ We’re saying, ‘Hey, we could be great partners in helping reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere as well as upgrading your practices.’”
As mourners headed toward the church before the funeral began, a handful of demonstrators gathered on nearby streets, with one woman waving a Black Lives Matter flag and an artist starting a mural across the street.
“I gotta tell you, I’m just in shock right now. The world shouldn’t be like this. We shouldn’t be losing friends like this,” said Malik Taylor, 24, a childhood friend of Wright’s who attended the funeral with another friend, John Mayer Jones, 19, both of Minneapolis.