How Michigan is Responding to the Killing of George Floyd

Residents have taken to the street in protest of police brutality, and law enforcement officials are speaking out against the Minneapolis Police Department officers responsible for Floyd’s death
george floyd michigan
A demonstrator holds up a sign at a protest in Ferndale on May 31.

On May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who forcefully kneeled on his neck during an arrest. Since then, people across the country have joined together in protest in support of Floyd and other unarmed black people who have been killed by police — in recent months alone, this includes Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and more. While we’re many miles away from Minneapolis, the news has had a ripple effect. Michigan law enforcement officials are speaking out against the Minneapolis Police Department officers and social activists are gathering across the state. Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed Floyd, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on May 29, but communities are still pushing for justice and advocating for an end to police brutality, racism, and mass incarceration. Here’s a quick recap of what’s happened in Michigan since then:

Law enforcement officials speak out

In a press conference on May 28, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said he supports the firing of the Minneapolis Police Department officers who were involved in killing Floyd. Craig also said he plans to issue a memo to his department to reiterate its use of force policy, which prohibits restraining somebody by their neck. [Metro Times]

Other law enforcement officials across Michigan also spoke out against the Minneapolis Police Department. Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller III said he’s “personally disgusted at the way George Floyd was treated,” while Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green said “officers on the job have the duty to intervene” when they see excessive force. [Wood TV 8]

A new bill is introduced that requires Michigan officers to take “de-escalation” training

Amid protests across the country, Michigan Democratic state Sen. Jeff Irwin introduced a new bill on May 28 that would increase law enforcement training that focuses on d-escalation techniques, implicit bias, and mental health screening. [Click On Detroit]

Detroit sees days of protests

The first organized protest in Detroit kicked off at 4 p.m. on May 29 at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters. The event — which featured speakers with the March for Black Women Detroit and Metro-Detroit Political Action Network — protested George Floyd’s death and also called for an end to mass incarceration and facial-recognition technology. [Metro Times]

The second day of protesting started peacefully but ended with 60 arrests for disorderly conduct. Of those arrests, only 23 were from Detroit, while the rest came from suburban cities such as Farmington Hills, Warren, and Dearborn. Later, Detroit leaders said it was the suburban participants who disrupted the peace of the protest. “Protest in your own backyard,” said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit Branch NAACP, during a press conference with Detroit Police Chief James Craig and Mayor Mike Duggan. “Don’t come here and tear the city up and then go back home. That’s putting another knee on the neck of black folk.” [Detroit Free Press]

Two hours before the third day of protests in Detroit began on May 31, Duggan announced an 8 p.m. curfew for the city. The curfew lasts until further notice, and residents must remain inside unless they are going home, to work, or seeking emergency aid. Protests still lasted well into the evening. After peacefully joining protestors in kneeling, police officers in riot gear began to warn protestors to disperse around 8:20. They began launching tear gas and issuing arrests at about 8:40 p.m. The protest began with about 300 people at the police headquarters and grew to thousands by 6 p.m. [Detroit Free Press]

During the third night of protests, Detroit News investigative reporter Christine MacDonald was handcuffed. Despite identifying herself as a member of the press and telling the officer she had credentials, she was asked to come back to his scout car and detained briefly. “While we decry the handcuffing of reporters, we recognize the difficulty of differentiating between press and protesters,” said Gary Miles, Detroit News editor and publisher. “We’re glad that cooler heads prevailed, that other media spoke up and that the officer listened to Christine’s explanation and her insistence that, when released, she would continue doing her job of covering the night’s events.” Journalists were not subject to the city’s 8 p.m. curfew. [Detroit News]

Detroit City Council President Pro Tempore Mary Sheffield teamed up with artists and activists such as Royce Da 5’9,” Trick Trick, Jessica Care Moore, Horatio Williams, and Rev. Barry Randolph to hold a rally this afternoon to call for justice. The event was held at the Detroit Association of Black Organizations. [ClickOnDetroit]

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist respond

Gov. Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Gilchrist released a joint statement on May 30. “People in communities of color across the nation and right here in Michigan are feeling a sense of exhaustion and desperation. Communities are hurting, having felt that calls for equity, justice, safety and opportunity have gone unheard for too long. We stand in solidarity with those who are seeking equitable justice for everyone in our state. We can’t live in a society and a country where our rights and our dignity are not equal for all,” it read. [Michigan Advance]

Demonstrators gather in Ferndale

On May 31, nearly two hundred people gathered in Ferndale to protest police brutality and racism. The demonstration took place at the intersection of Woodward Avenue and Nine Mile Road. The rally remained mostly silent, although some chants such as “Black Lives Matter” broke out while demonstrators held signs reading “White Silence = Violence” and “Justice For George.” [Detroit Free Press]

Protestors and police march together in Flint

Flint made national headlines over the weekend when Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson took off his riot gear, spoke with demonstrators during a May 30 protest in the city, and then joined them in marching against police brutality. “I want to make this a parade, not a protest,” he told them. [CNN]

Protestors gather in Lansing

A group of armed black demonstrators gathered at the Capitol in Lansing on May 28 to protest the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and George Floyd in Minnesota. “We have to be OK coming together exercising our Second Amendment rights, just like anybody else can,” said one man at the event. “We can’t keep allowing the murders to happen in the streets.” [Detroit News]

Grand Rapids issues a civil emergency

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss declared a 48-hour civil emergency on May 31 after violence broke out in the city. A demonstration in Grand Rapids began peacefully on Saturday but protestors later clashed with police, who use tear gas and flashbang to disperse crowds. Officials say there were seven car fires and three building fires caused by arson. City leaders also issued a curfew from 7 p.m. through 5 a.m. on May 31. Those who violate the curfew could face up to 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. The city also called in the Michigan National Guard to assist with curfew enforcement and the protection of personal property. [Detroit News]

Detroit companies make donations

On May 31, StockX shared an Instagram post announcing that it would match employee donations to the Official George Floyd Memorial Fund, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Black Lives Matter, Communities United Against Police Brutality, The Minnesota Freedom Fund, Reclaim the Block, Know Your Rights Camp, and New Detroit. [Instagram: StockX]

Shinola also announced on Instagram on May 31 that it was donating. The Detroit-based lifestyle company has donated to the Detroit Justice Center, which works to transform the justice system. [Instagram: Shinola]

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