‘We don’t have time to grieve’: Families of Wright, Floyd, and Castile are channeling trauma into protest

Protesters hold up their fists near a chalk drawing of George Floyd and Daunte Wright at the site where George Floyd was killed, Sunday, April 18, 2021, in Minneapolis.
Protesters hold up their fists near a chalk drawing of George Floyd and Daunte Wright at the site where George Floyd was killed, Sunday, April 18, 2021, in Minneapolis. AP Photo/Julio Cortez
  • Philando Castile, George Floyd, and now Daunte Wright were killed by Minnesota police in the last five years.

  • Family members and friends of these three men told Insider there is no time to process their deaths.

  • There’s a lot of trauma in the Minneapolis area, and many Black residents don’t feel safe living there anymore.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Attendees outside the downtown Minneapolis courthouse embraced and wiped tears as word spread that a jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts related to the murder of George Floyd.

Last week, the sight of Floyd’s relatives standing side by side with the family of Daunte Wright sent a needed message of unity. Floyd and Wright’s names were read as prosecutors honored other victims of Minnesota police violence at a presser conference Tuesday – a somber reminder of the toll police violence has on families of color.

Victims’ families and friends told Insider the trauma of yet another Black person dying at the hands of police will likely outlive any sense of justice any conviction could provide. United in tragedy, they’re channeling shared grief as a call to action.

“This is a family that needs us to stand with them in solidarity now,” Floyd’s brother, Philonise, said of the Wrights last week. “We need you all to step up and be with us.”

Black people no longer feel safe in Minnesota, the families and friends of slain victims of police brutality told Insider. It’s a state that residents now associate with extreme violence against Black men – after police killed Philando Castile, George Floyd, and Daunte Wright.

20-year-old Wright became Minnesota’s latest victim after police pulled him over for a minor traffic violation in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center.

Minnesota residents are prohibited from having objects like air fresheners hanging from rearview mirrors – a largely unknown law that disproportionately impacts Black drivers. Wright was shot after initially getting out of the car and then getting back in, body-camera video shows.

Now Kimberly Potter, a Brooklyn Center police officer of 26 years, has since resigned from the force and faces a second-degree manslaughter charge.

Resting on the Floyds and familiar struggles

The Floyd family has offered some level of comfort for the Wrights, Daunte’s older sister, Monica, confirmed to Insider. George Floyd’s nephew, Brandon, expressed his condolences to her for the loss of her younger brother, a gesture that made Monica realize the two “have lots of things in common.”

“We lost a loved one too soon all from ‘a mistake’ or ‘an accident,'” Monica said.

The Floyd family is still reeling from the death of 46-year-old George. Now-former officer Chauvin knelt on George’s neck for more than nine minutes last year. Though the family can find a semblance of justice in the jury’s verdict convicting Chauvin on all charges – including third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter – the journey toward healing has only just begun.

The experiences of both the Floyd and Wright families are separate but familiar, an idea exemplified by the Floyds’ solidarity with the Wrights last week during a press conference.

“Damn, again?” Brandon said to a crowd in Minneapolis. “Another Black man or woman killed at the hands of police using excessive force.”

The connection between the Floyds and the Wrights runs deeper than a shared experience of police brutality. Wright’s aunt, Naisha, revealed that George Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, was at one point her nephew’s high school teacher.

But no amount of shared history can erase the past and bring back the loved ones of either family.

Cameras disappear, but the trauma remains

Minnesota residents are unable to grieve or heal properly, community organizers and family members of slain victims told Insider.

Before Floyd’s death came the killing of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old Black man who was shot seven times by an officer in 2016 during a traffic stop.

These three police killings have reshaped what it means to live in Minneapolis as a Black person, said Greg Crockett, a longtime best friend to Castile.

“There’s a lot of people from Minnesota that I know, and they take pride in being from Minnesota. They love their state, they love Minneapolis, they love Saint Paul,” he said in an interview with Insider. “For the first time, I’ve seen Black people literally like, ‘Man, I want to leave here.'”

After Castile’s death, Crockett left Minnesota.

“I struggled just being up in Minneapolis, and everything else, kind of just sleepwalking through life I would say,” Crockett said.

Even though he’s no longer living in the state, he’s often thinking back to home in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. These days, Wright is also on his mind.

Crockett said he went to high school with Wright’s older cousin. Bounded by the experience of losing a loved one to police violence, Crockett said he told her he’s always available to talk if she needs an ear.

Between Castile’s death, Floyd’s, and Wright’s, community advocates say there hasn’t been enough time to heal. The Minneapolis area – home to some of the nation’s largest racial disparities – is struggling to make peace with the police brutality that cut short the lives of loved ones.

philando castile diamond reynolds daughter
The then-4-year-old daughter of Diamond Reynolds, who was in the car when Philando Castile was fatally shot during a traffic stop by police, is held by a friend during a “Black Lives Matter” protest in front of the Governor’s Mansion in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on July 7, 2016. Reuters/Eric Miller

Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her daughter were in the car when an officer pulled him over. Both witnessed Castile die and are still dealing with the trauma today. Reynolds began live-streaming on her phone after the officer shot Castile. She ultimately received an $800,000 settlement from the city for emotional distress and false arrest.

Her daughter, Dae’Anna, soon to be 10 years old, has since been participating in Black Lives Matter protests and “just helping people heal,” Reynolds said.

The two have not yet met with the Floyd or Wright family, but Dae’Anna has sent “some kind words of encouragement” to them.

A lack of mental health support

Johan Kibble, Wright’s 17-year-old cousin, said he feels like he lost a brother.

Every day in the summer, the two used to get up early and play basketball from 8 in the morning to 10 at night, he told Insider. Basketball was one of the major ways the two bonded.

In the days after Wright’s death, Kibble told his closest friends that he and Wright were related.

At school, however, there was no mention of Wright. There was no moment of silence and no one checking in and asking if the kids were doing okay, Kibble said.

“It should be something everybody’s talking about, in my opinion,” Kibble said. “This isn’t a regular death. A police officer shot and killed my cousin for no reason. An air freshener hanging in his rear view window. That’s not even a violent crime.”

Reynolds and Dae’Anna attended a protest for Wright. But the chaos can be traumatic for witnesses to police violence.

“Police brutality is causing so many breakages in the mental health industry, the mental health system, and just mental health altogether,” Reynolds said. “Our children are being affected by it and they are the next generation to come.”

Reynolds said Dae’Anna still remembers the scene in the car vividly, detailing how she sold her 1996 Buick LeSabre after Dae’Anna expressed discomfort “because of her trauma.”

“She had so much anxiety when I drove,” Reynolds said. “The car reminded her of the car that Phil was killed in.”

Wright’s aunt, Kelly Bryant, also attended one of the protests. She told Insider she and her best friend and daughter were tear-gassed by police there.

Back-to-back killings have left the community with no chance to process or heal since Castile’s death five years ago, and police presence only makes a vulnerable Black community feel more threatened.

One of the groups providing on-the-ground support is Black Lives Matter Minnesota.

Trahern Crews, a community organizer and spokesperson for BLM Minnesota, has been attending protests in the wake of Wright’s death.

“There’s so much tension in the air, by seeing a lot of our businesses boarded up because they’re anticipating the verdict,” Crews said. He questioned why city officials deployed the National Guard.

“Why do [they] think that there’s going to be civil unrest,” Crews said, referring to city officials. He noted at the time that he believed city officials were preparing in case there was “a chance of Derek Chauvin getting off.”

“Because the justice system works for white people and the justice system wasn’t designed to work for George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Eric Gardner, or Philando Castile, or Jacob Blake or Breonna Taylor,” he continued. “And it hasn’t. So we’re hoping that it is different this time.”

Collectively, the community is calling for justice.

For over a week after Wright was shot and killed, demonstrators gathered in Brooklyn Center to call out police brutality. Just miles away, a jury sat presiding over witness testimonies to the Floyd killing, the fate of former officer Chauvin resting in their hands.

A couple blocks down from the spot where Floyd was killed, the streets are blocked off, said Delia Spencer, Floyd’s friend and coworker from the Salvation Army.

george floyd square
George Floyd Square is shown on Feb. 8, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ten months after police officers brushed off George Floyd’s moans for help on the street outside a south Minneapolis grocery, the square remains a makeshift memorial. AP Photo/Jim Mone

Spencer said Minneapolis doesn’t feel safe anymore. That fear heightened as the police presence in the city grew in response to protesters following Wright’s death.

“Now, it’s more looting up here and to be honest, we’re not safe. It’s not that we’re not safe by the hands of our own people, it’s we’re not safe by the hands of our own people and the cops,” she said. The Wrights have called for peaceful protests, saying Daunte would not want demonstrators looting or throwing objects at police.

Floyd used to walk Spencer to her car every day after her shift at work ended, she said, describing him as a “big man with a big heart.”

Spencer said she wanted to see justice in the wake of Floyd’s death, which meant a conviction for Chauvin.

“They literally snatched this man’s life because they felt he was a threat even when they had him down on the ground. He was down on the ground handcuffed,” Spencer said in an interview with Insider.

Healing through protest

At a press conference following Tuesday’s verdict, prosecuting attorney Jeff Storm insisted “no longer can [Minnesota] be known for these massively infamous failures in civil rights.” Stormed added that future generations are owed more in local leadership “from this moment further, from this conviction now.”

For organizers like BLM Minnesota’s Trahern Crews, knowing that Derek Chauvin will be sentenced on all counts in Floyd’s death is only a step in the right direction. It won’t ease a community’s pain.

“Every time you see a police officer, you’re afraid because you don’t know if you’re going to be the next Philando, or the next George Floyd,” he said. “For Black people, Derek Chauvin going to prison would be sending a message to the Black community that you can’t just kill us anymore like that.”

“People like the George Floyd family, Daunte Wright family, they can never get him back,” he continued.

Black communities throughout Minnesota are channeling their trauma to build up and make a better world for their children to inherit. Victims’ families have also looked to organizing for healing.

Daunte’s older sister Monica Wright told Insider she wants to create space for people with trauma from losing a loved one to police.

“A lot of people aren’t comfortable just going straight out to the media,” she said. “So I want to give them that family that you can go to and express your anger and your feelings about what happened to you or a family member.”

Reynolds is among the relatives and friends whose lives were flipped upside-down from the death of a loved one at the hands of police. She live-streamed a video of the aftermath of Castile’s fatal shooting, which went viral and led to public fallout.

Castile’s mother, Valerie, is also coping with his death. She started a foundation to assist victims of gun and police violence with scholarships, housing assistance, and other essential needs.

Reynolds wants to mourn by connecting with victims she thinks could benefit “through my experiences.”

For her daughter, Dae’Anna, protesting has turned into a somber pastime – and a way to heal from the lingering trauma together. “She is the loudest one out there chanting on the megaphone, and everybody is out there chanting with her,” Reynolds said.

Other family and friends echo that the fight against police brutality is far from over. Movements that started locally have now extended well beyond Minnesota.

Protesters have organized vigils and demonstrations across the U.S. in honor of Floyd and Wright.

Following the Chauvin verdict, George Floyd’s brother Philonise detailed messages of support from protesters around the world, who declared they “won’t be able to breathe” until the Floyd family can.

Philonise noted that “today, we are able to breath again.” But he charged that the fight against police brutality must continue because “10 miles away from here Mr. Wright, Daunte Wright – he should still be here.”

The Wrights and Floyds were first linked in the hours after Daunte’s death, but are now united through a fraternity of tragedy all too common among Black families, especially in Minnesota.

Calling police brutality “a never-ending cycle,” Philonise Floyd urged supports to “understand we have to march,” adding that “we will have to do this for life.”

“And I will put up a fight every day because I’m not just fighting for George anymore,” he said. “I’m fighting for everybody around this world. Justice for George means freedom for all.”

Read the original article on Insider

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