Approximately 200 Northfield High School students walked out of class Monday afternoon, protesting what they say are the racist actions of police in the recent killings of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo.

The approximately half-hour protest at Memorial Field came after the Sunday, April 11 shooting death of Wright by Brooklyn Center police and last month’s shooting death of 13-year-old Chicago boy Adam Toledo. The deaths have sparked protests, inspired new debate on law enforcement’s use of force, and caused accusations that police departments across the country are improperly targeting people of color, less than one year following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man while being taken into Minneapolis police custody.

Many of the student protesters wore shirts and showed signs paying homage to the Black Lives Matter movement and other groups supporters say are advocating for a more just society. To mark the shootings, students had a brief moment of silence during the protest and then at 1:47 p.m. to mark the approximate time Wright was killed. The protest was part of a statewide effort by Minnesota Teen Activists, a Twin Cities-based nonprofit.

Brooklyn Center’s police chief, who has since resigned, said he believed the officer who shot Wright, Kim Potter, meant to use her Taser and not her service weapon. A Washington County prosecutor last week charged Potter, who also resigned, with second-degree manslaughter. Police have described the shooting of Wright as “an accidental discharge” that happened as officers were trying to arrest Wright on an outstanding warrant after stopping his car for having expired registration tags.

Police body camera footage released following Toledo’s death reportedly shows the officer shooting the boy less than a second after the boy drops a handgun, turns toward Stillman and begins raising his hands.

‘We live in a racist and corrupt state’

One Northfield High School freshman speaker said though she thought Northfield would be a less racist community than the small town she was from, she has since been proven wrong. She said a staff member supported the police shooting of Wright, and expressed frustration over what she said is the race-based standoffishness officers have for Black people.

Another student said it was unacceptable that the officer had mistaken a Taser for a gun, and called the issue a symbol of the continuing racism in society. She also took issue with white people who verbalize their disgust with such fatal encounters but then post social media posts she deems trivial following their comments.

“We live in a racist and corrupt state,” the speaker said.

As the students walked back to the school, they chanted: “Take it to the streets, defund the police, no justice, no peace.”

Northfield High School senior Citlali Valdez decided to participate to “stand right next to my fellow Black students and Hispanic students.” Valdez and her sister, NHS freshman Xochitl Valdez, noted both of their parents are undocumented and live in constant fear of deportation.

Citlali said it “disgusts” her to know that people have been shot just for the color of their skin. They called on white people to listen to people of color and be empathetic.

Following the protest, Superintendent Matt Hillmann said the district honors the right of students to engage in free speech without interfering in the learning environment of others as outlined in a 1969 Supreme Court ruling. Students who miss class, however, are held accountable per the district’s attendance policy.

“Our students are expressing their First Amendment rights,” he added.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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