‘You got to stand,’ says lone protester outside Potter trial

By: - December 17, 2021 12:47 pm

Tanya James was the only activist Thursday outside the courthouse where former Brooklyn Center police office Kimberly Potter is being tried for manslaughter.

A lone protester sat outside the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday, where Kimberly Potter is on trial for manslaughter. Whenever someone  walked within earshot, Tanya James would holler “Justice for Daunte Wright” across the frozen lawn.

A few activists have been seen most days outside the courthouse, but their numbers dwindled to just James as the temperature plunged from 50-plus Wednesday to about 18 degrees over the lunch hour Thursday.

James sat in a lawn chair bundled up in black winter coat with a purple blanket on her lap, a black trash bag at her feet, and a sign picturing Wright in front of her. 

“When the trial gets here, that’s when you got to stand and hold space for the trial to apply pressure — which I can’t apply much by myself but you know I mean, it is a little bit of a visual,” she said.

James,who lives in Little Rock, Ark., was also in Minneapolis for Derek Chauvin’s trial for almost three months, sleeping in a car outside a Planet Fitness and showering inside. She  returned home just once, she said, to attend her daughter’s graduation.

She saw a recent social media post by Wright’s brother bemoaning the lack of supporters at the courthouse, and said she wished others would join her and have a whole line of people to influence those entering and leaving the court building. 

It was her fourth week at the Potter trial, and she told a man who gave her some food that she intended to try to stay outside until five that day, or at least 3 o’clock.

“We can’t stop until the verdict; we got to keep going,” James said. “Because once the verdict’s made it’s a done deal…But I can only control me, so I’m here.”

As she spoke, two people dropped off food, and a squirrel promptly scurried over to her feet, trying to get at the cup of soup. She said the day before, someone who tried to pet the squirrel was bitten.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.