Reading about the killing of Daunte Wright one cannot help feel the anguish of his family and friends and the black community in general.
Regardless of the degree of culpability on the part of the police officer who shot him during a routine traffic stop — whether it comes under the legal rubric of murder or manslaughter, and what degree thereof (Kim Potter, who has resigned from the police force, hasn’t been charged yet) — the needless death of a 20-year-old tears at the country’s already open wound of racism and police brutality.
Katie Wright, Daunte’s mother, called the day her son died “the worst day of my life … I never imagined this was what was going to happen. I just thought that he was getting arrested,” she said.
Wright’s father told ABC on Tuesday he could not accept police’s explanation of what happened during the stop. Potter said that she mistakenly shot a service revolver which she thought was a taser.
“I lost my son. He is never coming back. I can’t accept that. A mistake? That doesn’t even sound right,” he said.
“If you told me and I didn’t see little Daunte’s face and his mother and grandmother crying, I wouldn’t believe it,” said civil rights attorney Ben Crump, as he stood alongside the Wright and Floyd families at a press conference.
The lethal incident has sparked anger and violence, including breaking store windows, looting and burning, in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center where it occurred, and as well in New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, Louisville, Washington D.C., and Portland, Oregon.
Minnesota called in the National Guard and imposed a night curfew at the beginning of a week of protests after the killing. Acting police Commander Tony Gruenig said he hoped to bring “some calm for the community,” and did not refrain from making dozens of arrests to do so.
However, there was one official who did not seem interested in promoting calm: Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California.
On the contrary, in an appalling performance that could hardly be believed was that of a member of the Congress of the United States, Waters went on Sunday to Brooklyn City with the express purpose of further inflaming the crowds.
She told them “to stay in the streets, and we’ve got to demand justice. We’re looking for a guilty verdict” in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the police killing of George Floyd, where the jury is set to deliberate next week. So much for due process of law.
“And if we don’t, we cannot go away. We’ve got to get more confrontational,” she said.
More confrontational than what? Than peaceful protest? Than the burning and looting that has already shaken the area night after night?
Waters was careful with her words, avoiding any explicit call for violence. But there is no mistaking how her intention would be construed by some of those on the street.
“Confrontational” is, in this situation, a code word for rioting. The hotheads and thugs who run amok in situations such as this need no decryption. They know what Waters means.
Regarding the 11 p.m. curfew, Waters was somewhat less guarded. Asked about the curfew, she said, “I don’t know what curfew means,” according to a tweeted clip.
“A curfew means that ‘I want y’all to stop talking,’” she said, adding, “I don’t agree with it.”
Waters’ speech comes recklessly close to Justice Holmes’s classic definition of the limits of free speech, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing panic.”
America in these days is like a crowded theater, and speeches like Waters’ is like crying fire.
There is also an element of hypocrisy. The New York Post cited her demands for the second impeachment of President Trump, accusing him of “inciting” his followers, and “trying to create a civil war.”
“By her own standards, Maxine Waters should be impeached and removed,” the editorial said.
The Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy might try just that. “Maxine Waters is inciting violence in Minneapolis — just as she has incited it in the past. If Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi doesn’t act against this dangerous rhetoric, I will bring action this week,” The Hill quoted him as saying on Sunday night.
And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been trying to stay on the good side of her left-wing colleagues in the Democratic party, has been notably skittish about disciplining members for conduct unbecoming, as in the case of repeated anti-Semitic remarks by Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. As such, some form of mild rebuke is the most that can be hoped for.
The Hill said it reached out to Waters’ office for comment on Sunday, but so far has received none. For some reason, the congresswoman who has so much to say to angry crowds has nothing to say to journalists.
We too want justice. But not the Maxine Waters kind of justice, that “looks for a guilty verdict.” Rather, the kind of justice any citizen deserves, that looks for the truth of what happened.