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Rally for Daunte Wright

The chants heard in downtown Morgantown Thursday evening were exactly the same as those that echoed through the same streets last summer. 

Black Lives Matter.

No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police.

There was one notable difference. 

When leaders chanted “Say his name,” the chorus did not return, “George Floyd,” but rather, “Daunte Wright.”

Wright was killed Sunday night when suburban Minneapolis police Officer Kim Potter shot him during a traffic stop. Potter, who has since resigned and is charged with second-degree manslaughter, claims she confused her service weapon with her taser.

The killing, just six weeks shy of the one year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd and amidst the murder trial of former officer Derric Chauvin, ignited continuing protests in the Minneapolis area. 

“I understand that the killing didn’t happen here, it happened in Minneapolis, but it’s important that the entire nation rise up and show support for Daunte Wright’s family, for his son, for his girlfriend, for his mom,” organizer Sammantha Norris said. 

Norris was a key organizer for Morgantown protests last year, and within hours of Wright’s death she began receiving messages asking if a local march would take place.

“We’re tired of this. We’re tired of reading the news and another kid gets killed.”

At its peak the demonstration downtown attracted over 100 people. Attendants stood in the cold afternoon wind in front of the Monongalia County Courthouse on High Street to hear speakers such as Norris, West Virginia University student Hawa Diawara and state Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia.

Samm Norris speaks to a crowd
Sammantha Norris speaks to a crowd gathered Thursday afternoon downtown in front of the Monongalia County Courthouse to protest for Daunte Wright and against racial injustice.
Hawa Diawara at the courthouse
Hawa Diawara speaks to the crowd around the Monongalia County Courthouse to protest the death of Daunte Wright.

“Once again we are here,” Walker said through tears. 

The courthouse courtyard was a central meeting place for Black Lives Matters rallies and protests last summer.

“I’m not OK and neither should you. I’m tired, I’m frustrated, I’m scared, and I don’t know if I’ll be here at the next vigil,” she said, raising her shirt to reveal body armor below.

Walker has taken to wearing a bulletproof vest  in public since a Black Lives Matter march in Kingwood last September was met by armed counter-protesters, and in response to direct threats on her life since her election.

“It’s traumatizing as a Black person to continuously show up in the same place that you were in last year and it feels like nothing has changed for you,” said WVU student Hawa Diawara.

After the speeches, attendants were led in a circuit of downtown Morgantown. They followed High Street, onto Kirk Street over to Spruce Street, and back to High Street via Willey Street, all the while chanting and holding signs that read, “Rest in Power Daunte,” and “With Liberty and Justice for ALL.”

The sun shone as marchers returned to the courthouse, and although no other actions are planned for the immediate future, organizers hope the activism will continue in more personal spaces.

“I think that action fails if its just confined in one place, and that social justice fails if its just confined in one place,” Norris said.

“I hope the people here today take something away from it and we start doing something about it. Whether it’s in your schools or at work, every small action is big to us. Support your Black brothers and sisters, be there for them and also talk to your white neighbors, talk to your white friends,” Diawara echoed.

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protestor holds sign
An attendee of the rally holds a sign Thursday afternoon downtown to protest racial injustice.