2021 protests, riots that gripped US in post-George Floyd era

Rittenhouse trial protests turn violent at Kenosha County courthouse

Rittenhouse protesters taken into custody as tensions outside Kenosha courthouse reach fever pitch.

The widespread protests and sometimes violent demonstrations that became commonplace nationwide following George Floyd’s death streamed into 2021 on several occasions during the trial for Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis and across the country in other instances unrelated to law enforcement.  

Rochester, New York, saw some of the first protests this year in February. Hundreds took to the streets after a grand jury decided not to indict seven officers involved in the March 2020 arrest of Daniel Prude.

Prude made national news after video showed he was handcuffed naked and seated on the street while his head was covered with a spit hood. There were also protests in Rochester after the release of body camera footage of another March 2020 incident involving 10-year-old Na’ilah Bey, who was placed in handcuffs as officers responded to a report about “family” trouble.

About 200 demonstrators marched through the city in upstate New York, some ripping away barricades at a Rochester police precinct. In the body camera video, an officer tells the girl to “stop acting like a child,” to which Bey retorts, “I am a child.” 

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    BLM protesters march to the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James and attempt to enter the building in Lower Manhattan of New York City, Feb. 24, 2021, after Daniel Prude’s death leads to no charges for the police. (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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    In this March 23, 2020, image made from police body camera video, provided by Roth and Roth LLP, a police officer puts a hood over the head of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York. (Rochester Police via Roth and Roth LLP via AP, File)

March and April brought heightened safety measures in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as state, local and federal law enforcement coordinated a security effort through Operation Safety Net for the trial of Derek Chauvin, who was convicted in the murder of George Floyd. 

As the trial was still underway, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot and killed during a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, and the officer who fired, Kim Potter, said she intended to pull her Taser but drew her firearm by mistake.

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    Protesters hold up a pig’s head wearing a police cap on a stick outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, as protests continue days after former police officer Kim Potter fatally shot Daunte Wright, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, April 14, 2021.  (REUTERS/Nick Pfosi )

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    National Guard soldiers monitor a protest outside the Brooklyn Center Police station on April 15, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.  (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

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    Protesters, dressed in bathrobes to show solidarity with a woman who was arrested outside her apartment complex in a bathrobe during a protest a few days ago, march from the Brooklyn Center Police Department days after Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a police officer, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, April 16, 2021.  (REUTERS/Leah Millis)

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    Women raise their fists while singing "Changes" during a demonstration outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, days after Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a police officer, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, April 15, 2021.  (REUTERS/Leah Millis)

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    A large firework explodes as community members protest after the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minn., on April 15, 2021.  (Jasper Colt-USA TODAY)

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    Community members protest after the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minn., on April 15, 2021. (Jasper Colt-USA TODAY)

Hundreds of demonstrators swarmed the Brooklyn Center Police Department, and clashes between law enforcement and crowds involved objects being hurled at officers, arrests and tear gas seeping into the residential apartment where families lived across the street. 

Potter and the Brooklyn Center police chief resigned, and the city manager was fired in a matter of days before Mayor Mike Elliott assumed control of the police department. Potter fled her home in a separate Minneapolis suburb. She was found guilty of manslaughter in Wright’s death this month.

In North Carolina, the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City drew national attention, as civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who secured a record civil settlement for Floyd’s family, arrived in the coastal town to hold press conferences as local prosecutors resisted pressure to release body camera footage before their investigation was complete. 

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    A protester carries a Black Lives Matter flag shortly before the start of a dawn-to-dusk curfew following the killing of Andrew Brown Jr.  (REUTERS/Jonathan Drake)

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    Protesters walk away from police vehicles as a few demonstrators ignore the dawn-to-dusk curfew following the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, April 27, 2021.   (REUTERS/Jonathan Drake)

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    Lawyers release findings from an independent autopsy commissioned by Brown family attorneys. (AP/Brown Family)

Protesters flooded the coastal town, and police declared unlawful assemblies. The district attorney eventually ruled that Brown’s shooting, while “tragic,” was “justified” because he tried to flee in a vehicle as deputies were serving drug-related search and arrest warrants. 

April was also a month of protest in Chicago over the police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. Body camera footage released of the March 29 shooting appeared to show Toledo dropped the gun he was holding before he was shot by Chicago police Officer Eric Stillman. 

Protests over the teen’s death extended outside of Chicago as hundreds marched in Brooklyn and Manhattan, blocking traffic and shutting down some tunnels. 

Tensions rose again in Minneapolis in June, as 100 Minnesota National Guard troops were placed on standby following the shooting of Winston “Boogie” Smith Jr. in a parking garage, as members of a U.S. Marshals task force closed in. Prosecutors ultimately determined Smith drew a handgun on officers and both sides exchanged gunfire. 

Protesters showed up outside the Kenosha, Wisconsin, courthouse last month for the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who was ultimately found not guilty on all charges related to shooting three men during riots last summer in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake. 

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