Photo: Nicholas David Kraus (Source: Hennepin County Booking Photo)
By Serran Soledad and Sarah Ahmed
On Sunday night in Minneapolis, Nicholas David Kraus, 35, intentionally drove his car into a protest being held for Winston Smith, killing one woman and injuring two other protesters. Kraus, who attempted to escape, was pursued and beaten by the crowd, until he was turned over to police. Winston Smith was an unarmed 32-year-old Black man murdered in Minneapolis by a federal task force on June 3, in what mounting evidence shows to be a targeted assassination.
Protesters were gathered in Uptown Minneapolis, around midnight Sunday, when Deona Marie Knajdek, 31, was fatally injured, after Kraus’s car barreled into her parked vehicle, which then struck her and two other protesters who were in the street. The victim’s brother, Garret Knajdek told the bourgeoise newspaper the Minneapolis Star Tribune that his sister was using her parked car as a barrier to help block the road during the protest.
A witness on social media said that Kraus attempted to run from his car before protesters began to attack him. One man is seen in photos restraining Kraus in a chokehold, with reports alleging that he forced him to pass out. Kraus narrowly avoided further People’s Justice from the angry crowd before police approached.
Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) had been monitoring the protest and saw the moment when Kraus plowed into the protest. Upon arriving to the scene, police arrested Kraus before shooting the protesters with rubber bullets and bear mace, eventually sending in squad reinforcements and blocking off roads in the Uptown area.
Kraus was booked into the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center on a probable cause hold for criminal vehicular homicide, which has since been upgraded to a charge of intentional 2nd degree murder along with other assault charges. He is being held on $1,000,000 bond.
In a statement to police, Kraus admitted to accelerating his car towards Knajdek’s car and other protesters. Kraus inherits his tactics from a fellow reactionaries who have used cars as weapons and tools to target protesters, including Daniel Perry, who drove into a protest in Austin, Texas last July and shot Garrett Foster.
On Wednesday, which would have been Knadjek’s 32nd birthday, activists gathered at the site of her murder for a vigil. According to one activist’s social media posts, police soon arrived in riot gear and began violently arresting mourners. The arrests resulted in one disabled activist having a seizure.
Protesters have gone onto local radio station WCCO, and made the demand for the area of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue intersection where Knadjek was killed and which is near the site of Winston Smith‘s murder by police to be permanently closed to traffic and memorialized in a fashion similar to “George Floyd Square.”
On June 3, Winston “Boogie” Smith, a 32-year-old father of three was killed by US Marshals at 2:11 PM. He and a 27-year-old woman were leaving a lunch date, sitting in his parked car, when they were blindsided by sheriff’s deputies acting as part of the US Marshals Fugitive Task Force.
According to the woman, who was seated in the passenger side of Smith’s car, she never saw a gun on Smith or in the car. Smith was shot fifteen times, and the woman was also injured by glass shards from the attack.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said law enforcement was alerted to Smith’s location on the day they killed him. Several hours before his murder, Smith had shared a post on Instagram indicating he was at a local restaurant, Stella’s Fish Café and Prestige Oyster Bar off of Lake Street. The restaurant is across the street from the parking garage where Smith would later be killed.
An internal document from law enforcement, shared with Fox9, quotes Smith saying he’d “shoot it out” with law enforcement, suggesting that Smith was targeted for his militant views and officers were primed to take an aggressive approach. Early reports by the Star Tribune also incorrectly reported, then retracted, that Smith was wanted for murder, repeating police lies to criminalize Smith and justify his targeted killing.
Smith was an active musician and comedian who made short video skits that he shared on social media, many of which had political themes. In one skit, a character proclaims that he is going to keep expropriating items from stores, “for the streets,” regardless of former police officer Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict for murdering George Floyd.
During April protests for Daunte Wright, Smith posted video questioning the tactics of non-violent protest and called for protesters to arm themselves and prepare for war with the state, saying, “They still shooting y’all down, they must want a war. Ain’t nobody gonna keep begging for no justice. We’re about to take our justice. Ain’t nobody going to beg for no country. We’re gonna take our shit back. Get ready for war.”
The state fears and targets Black men like Smith, who channeled the rage of the masses in his calls for rebellion against the state. Smith recognized that calls for justice in the wake of racist police murders must ultimately be answered with revolutionary violence, and this clarity is likely why the state made special efforts to target him.
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