A group of around 300 people gathered at a vigil at Moore Square in downtown Raleigh on Sunday to commemorate Daunte Wright, as well as several victims of police brutality in Raleigh and two transgender women who were murdered in Charlotte earlier this month.
The vigil began around 6 p.m. Organizers laid out a banner with Daunte Wright’s name surrounded by candles, flowers and air fresheners — a reference to reports that Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was killed by police during a traffic stop on April 11 in Brooklyn Center, Minn., was originally stopped because of an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror in his car.
As crowds gathered, organizers passed out flowers and candles. Several local youth activists gave speeches about police brutality, focusing on their experiences as Black youth and calling for abolishing the police.
Yakob Lemma, one of the co-founders of the Wake County Black Student Coalition, was the first to speak. He said the recent killings have made him feel angry, sad and emotionally drained.
He started a call and response with the crowd of “Say His Name” or “Say Her Name” for Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo and Jacob Blake; as well as Jaida Peterson and Remy Fennell, two Black transgender women who were murdered in Charlotte earlier this month; and Soheil Mojarrad, Akiel Denkins and Keith Collins, all killed by Raleigh police officers.
“How many more people, how many more innocent lives do we have to lose?” Lemma said.
Victoria Smith, the other WCBSC co-founder, said she has to live in fear for her life and the lives of her family members just because of their race.
“I’m so tired of wondering if I’m next,” Smith said.
Smith said she feels exhausted having to deal with the pressure of constantly living in fear at such a young age. Smith, who is 18, said there is an emotional drain from seeing so many people like herself killed from a young age, and she feels like even more of a target now that she is an adult.
“Why do I have to be a strong Black woman?” Smith asked. “I’m tired of being strong.”
There were protests in Raleigh and Durham throughout the weekend. Sunny, a spokesperson for the WCBSC who preferred to use only their first name, said the coalition did not organize any of the protests this past weekend and does not take responsibility for any of the resulting events, though they stand in solidarity with those who were arrested.
After the speeches ended, a group of about 200 people began to march through the streets with chants of “no justice, no peace, abolish the police.”
The protest remained largely peaceful for the first 20 minutes, with protesters occasionally throwing eggs at buildings and cars.
Within the first five minutes of the protest, a Raleigh Police Department van pulled up behind the group and warned protesters that if they did not leave the street and go to the sidewalk, they were subject to arrest.
The protest was declared an unlawful assembly at 8:16 p.m by the police department, which said the protesters engaged in the illegal activities of impeding traffic, damaging property and setting small fires.
By around 8:20 p.m., the crowd dwindled to about 100 people.
Around 8:33 p.m., a group of about 30 police officers in riot gear charged the protesters from behind and detained several. The remaining protesters regrouped and marched until they reached the State Capitol, at which point another large group of Raleigh police and State Capitol police detained several more protesters.
The remaining protesters continued to march until they neared Moore Square, at which point one final arrest was made and the rest of the crowd dispersed.
Raleigh police said they arrested a total of 12 people throughout the night. All were charged with failure to disperse, and two received other charges.