Black Student Leadership hosts a Black Lives Matter protest to honor Duante Wright

Photo+taken+by+Alexia+Walz.

Photo taken by Alexia Walz.

Maija Sikora and Alexia Walz, Managing Editor and Multimedia Editor

 

Trigger Warning: Be advised, this article references violent events and contains strong language.

 

“No Justice, No Peace. Prosecute the police.”

This was one of many chants that met the ears of many pedestrians who were present in the downtown La Crosse area on April 15, 2021. This past Thursday, people from around the midwest gathered at Riverside Park to acknowledge the life and death of Duante Wright.

Wright, a recent victim of police brutality in Minneapolis, was stopped for an expired plate charge on the night of April 11, 2021, by former Minneapolis police officer Kimberly Potter. After running his information, Potter noted that Wright had a warrant for an outstanding arrest. The following struggle between Wright and the officers who were attempting to obtain him resulted in a fatal shooting.

“While he was stopped, Duante called his mom. And when she asked him why he was stopped, he said he thought it might be because he had an air freshener in the back of his car that might have been obstructing his mirror,” said event coordinator and supporter of Black Student Leaders Alissa Rieve at the beginning of the Riverside event.

“His mom told him, ‘when the police come to get your information, hand the phone over to me and I will give them our insurance information.’ Because that’s what this was. It was a traffic stop. But Duante didn’t get the chance to hand his phone over. He was still on the line when the police officers told him to exit the vehicle. She heard him say, ‘For what?’ They told him it will all be explained once he gets out,” said Rieve. “She heard scuffling, and then someone hung up the phone. That was the last time his mother got to hear his voice.” 

The event was organized by the independent Black Student Leadership (BSL) at Logan High School and was designed to continue the conversation on racial inequality after almost a year since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, an event that publicized the twenty-first century Civil Rights Movement. 

BSL Co-President Brianna Washington said the organization hopes to counteract silence with black voices and invite change by giving a platform and a support system to marginalized identities. “They [Logan High School] like to monetize their behavior and how they represent certain cultures and how they represent certain peoples. And we just don’t tolerate that. It needs to be the honest truth and it needs to be straight to the point and it needs to be changing. I would say the school isn’t really ready for change and the community isn’t ready for change. We are taking steps forward but we are definitely nowhere near where we should be. And I would say in this day and age it is very disappointing to see that these issues are still going on in light of everything we’ve done. We are still getting discredited.”

BSL Co-President Chaya Davis said that her positionality as a black student during this movement has influenced her perspective on the institutionalized nature of oppression. “Me being in high school, and living in the area that we live in, sometimes we are uneducated about police brutality or even our history and our culture. So for stuff like this to happen, we just notice more and more that our school doesn’t support us. And the fact that they don’t support these things, or ask students how they are doing, it just shows that they don’t mentally or physically support us.” 

The protest began with speeches and an introduction from event organizers and members of the Black Student Leadership at Logan High School. They gave space and platform to those who wanted to express their emotions over the racially charged events of the last year and a half, or over a lifetime: 

“I remember when my mom first gave me the talk,” said one protester. “Not the birds and the bees. The talk about being black. The talk about growing up in America everyday knowing that people are going to judge you because of the color of your skin. Being told, don’t put your hood up because you might get shot, like Trayvon Martin. Being told you have to carry your ID on you because you might get shot, like Michael Brown. Why do you have to teach your kids that? Do you have to teach your kids that as a white person? Do you have to have that talk? No. And yet they act like racism doesn’t exist. Open your eyes people.” 

“Police just have to stop killing black folks. And not just black folks, but LGBTQ+, trans, intersectional, all folks. That’s all I really have to say. Because it’s tiring. Having to go into survival mode for years after years, and black ancestors have to fight for liberty and having to breathe,” said supporter Annie Moua, who recently relocated to La Crosse from the Minneapolis area. 

Another supporter stood to speak on their connection to Duante Wright. “The day that Duante died I called my mom. We knew Duante. I graduated high school with him. I called my mom and told her what happened and she said she wanted me to go home. I live in northern Minnesota. The most white, stereotypical neighborhood I’ve seen in my life. She wanted me to go there. Because she was afraid for my life like Duante. Because she didn’t want me going to a school that let that happen all the time. She didn’t want my life to be next. The fact that my life is in so much danger that she wanted me to go back to a place that I wanted to get away from? Is sad, it is f*cking disgusting. Because she didn’t want me to be next.”

“A few hours ago, in Logan High School, I walked into my classroom, and I heard my homeroom teacher and a few of my fellow students justifying the death of Duante Wright,” said Cameron Dull on their experience as a white person at a white majority high school. “‘It was a mistake. If he would have followed the law he would be alive right now.’ My teacher agreed. He said ‘Yes. Yes absolutely.’ That’s horsesh*t. Racism is in our institutions, all around us. If you are a white person, like me, it is your duty to not just be passive to racism but to be anti-racist.” 

In the open circle, after black supporters stood to their experiences living through racism, white supporters stood to admit their past prejudices and their awakening to its reality, and speak to the importance of actively educating oneself. One supporter said, “If I can learn from ignorance, so can you.”

For the last portion of the event, the protest became mobile, and protesters marched and chanted throughout the streets of downtown La Crosse. 

On April 12, former officer Potter publicly stated that she had mistaken her gun for a taser. On April 14, Potter was charged with second-degree manslaughter. However, despite the arrest of Wright’s shooter, the disproportionately high number of fatal police shootings that affect black Americans has not been absolved.

“It’s frustrating. We keep going through the same things,” said BSL Vice President Takobie Robinson. “And we would hope that it would get better, soon. But we just have to keep doing this. We’ve been doing this for so long. It’s just frustrating.” 

“It’s very disheartening. It just shows you the reality of the situation. Like wow, you really do not respect us,” said Washington. “You don’t respect anything that we have to say and at this point, we are very unimportant, we don’t matter to you. We are getting bigger. We are growing, and eventually, we are going to overpower them. We are going to keep going and keep fighting. We don’t take no for an answer.” 

To learn more about Black Student Leaders, follow @bsl_lacrosse on Instagram.

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