Protest, vigil for Daunte Wright held at UT Tower

Skye Seipp

TW: Discussions of police brutality, murder

Editor’s Note: Two sources within this story, Andrea and M, are identified using false name to protect their identity due to fear of repercussions for protesting police violence.

UT students and community members protested at the UT Tower Wednesday night, demanding justice for Daunte Wright and other members of the Black community killed by police brutality. The protest included a vigil for Wright, speeches and a march across Speedway.

Wright, a 20-year-old Black man in Minnesota was killed by Kim Potter, a white police officer who worked for the department for 26 years. Wright was pulled over for having an expired registration and an air freshener hanging from his mirror. Wright’s death has led to three nights of protests in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, where police and the Minnesota National Guard have shot tear gas, rubber bullets and other projectiles at protesters.

Potter was arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter on Wednesday. The former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said Potter meant to pull her taser, which was located on her left side. However, investigators found Potter drew from her right side, where her gun was located before firing once in Wright’s chest. Potter, a veteran police officer, has faced scrutiny by activists since tasers are typically brightly colored.

The protests come as the white former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd by pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, Derek Chauvin, is on trial for second-degree manslaughter, second-degree murder and third-degree murder.

The protest at UT was organized by Cops Off Campus, which started last month. The group calls for the abolishment of UTPD. Cops Off Campus is an offshoot organization of the Liberation Coalition, which labels itself as a socialist organization that teaches “Revolutionary Communism, Intersectionality, Internationalism and Democratic Centralism.”

“There’s no justice until this racist system that murders us by the day is gone,” said Andrea, a main speaker at the protest for Cops Off Campus and a neuroscience alumna.

The rally featured speakers from multiple student organizations including the Liberation Coalition and the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

At least 80 people attended the rally. Protesters marched down Speedway past Gregory Gym and to the William C. Powers Student Activity Center, chanting phrases including “no justice, no peace!”

A sociology junior and member of Cops Off Campus who wished to be identified as M, said as a Black person, they feel obligated to not only fight for Wright, but for the lives of all Black people.

“I have brothers, I have nephews and cousins who could have been affected in the same way (as Wright),” M said. “I almost feel an obligation to do this kind of work.”

Some in the crowd also held fake roses and set up a memorial sign with candles for Wright.

Imani Lewis, who attends the University of Houston, said the roses allowed the event to also serve as a vigil for Wright’s life and give people a chance to mourn.

“It’s good for the mental health to be able to process what’s going one,” Lewis said. “People die from the hands of police almost every single day and it’s so saturated in our media that it’s hard to step back and be like ‘OK, this person actually died.’”

Andrea said the rally was put together for all people who have been killed at the hands of police, including George Floyd, Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor.

“When we found out Daunte was murdered it was like ‘Oh, another one,’” Andrea said. “There just keeps being more and more (people killed by police) … and we knew whether we had 10 people or 100 people, it was right to come out here and say what we wanted to say and fight for Daunte and honor him.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include an additional source and to clarify that Andrea’s name is a false name, not her first name. The Texan regrets this error.