Michiganders March: Honoring Juneteenth and a Call to End to Facial Recognition Technology

Plus, a recap of other Black Lives Matter-related developments
police brutality protests
Photo: IStock

Nationwide protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have lasted nearly a month. Last week, Louisville Metro Police moved to fire Brett Hankinson, one of three police officers responsible for fatally shooting 26-year-old EMT Breonna Taylor; the man suspected of killing 19-year-old Florida protester Oluwatoyin Salau confessed to her murder as well as killing 75-year-old volunteer Victoria Sims; and protesters across the country tore down statutes of slave owners such as George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, and Francis Scott Key. Quaker Oats also announced its intentions to change the name and figure of its Aunt Jemima brand, and the ESPY’s opened its June 21 show with a powerful tribute to Black Lives Matter.

Michiganders continue to fight against police brutality, systemic racism, and racial injustice as well. Here’s what happened from June 15-21 in the state.

Tensions rise between Detroit protesters and city officials

On June 15, Detroit Will Breathe co-organizer Tristan Taylor led a caravan of 40 cars that circled the homes of three Detroit City Council members. The demonstration was part of the protesters’ campaign to end Project Green Light and facial recognition technology, which is one of the group’s more than 20 demands. The council was scheduled to vote on extending a contract with facial recognition software provider, but the item was pulled from the council’s agenda before then. [The Detroit News] 

The Detroit Police Department has suspended one of its officers as it investigates police brutality claims from an MLive journalist. Other protesters have said they were treated with excessive force during protests in the city in late May and early June. “This department takes every allegation of police misconduct seriously and, as has been the practice since I’ve been chief, any officer who acted improperly will be disciplined,” said DPD Chief James Craig in a statement. He also said the department and the Board of Police Commissioners are collecting video evidence from body cams, building security cameras, and cell phones. [Fox 2 Detroit] 

Detroit Will Breathe held a tribunal on June 20 at Hart Plaza to put Mayor Duggan and Chief Crag “on trial” for how they’ve handled the protests. Numerous speakers described being roughed up during arrests and being subject to tear gas, peppers spray, and rubber bullets during the early days of protests in the city. [Detroit Free Press]  

A Juneteenth march also drew hundreds to downtown Detroit on June 20. Organized by individual activists, the march started at the Fox Theatre and ended with a rally at Hart Plaza. Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the NAACP’s Detroit branch, encouraged participants to fill out the 2020 census, demand accountability from corporations and politicians, and register to vote. [Detroit Free Press] 

Detroit companies observe Juneteenth 

Officials with Quicken Loans offered a paid holiday to its 30,000 employees on June 19 in honor of Juneteenth. The day marks the end of slavery in the United States. [The Detroit News]

Juneteenth was also recognized companywide at DTE Energy. Company officials encouraged employees to use their day off to learn more about Black history, have conversations about racial injustice, and volunteer to promote racial equity. [Click On Detroit] 

The Big Three automakers marked Juneteenth by observing a silence of 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck. The observance is among companywide efforts by GM, FCA, and Ford to advance social and racial justice. [Yahoo! Life] 

Signs of the times 

Following orders of Mayor Mike Duggan, the City of Detroit removed a Christopher Columbus statue from Jefferson Avenue and Randolph on June 15. Protesters across the country have torn down, destroyed, and defaced statues depicting racist historic figures in recent weeks. [Metro Times]

Detroit students gathered in the city to paint the message “Power to the People” on Woodward Avenue. Artist Hubert Massey designed the street mural, which will be unveiled to the public tomorrow. [The New York Times]

To support the Black Lives Matter movement, a Detroit man has covered his lawn with 52 crosses. The crosses display the names and faces of individuals who have lost their lives to violence, such as Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, and Emmet Till. [Detroit Free Press]

Suburban supporters of Black Lives Matter march on 

A protest in Taylor was interrupted early last week when a woman drove through the crowd of demonstrators and ran over a bicycle. Following the incident, police identified the driver, and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office will now decide whether to charge her. [Click On Detroit] 

Protesters against police brutality gathered in Ypsilanti on June 20. The protest followed a controversial incident that happened earlier in the week in which Ypsilanti Mayor Beth Bashert — a white woman — made a racially insensitive remark during a City Council meeting. She apologized for the statement via Facebook on Wednesday. [Click On Detroit] 

In a 5-2 vote on June 16, Shelby Township trustees decided that Police Chief Robert J. Shelide will not lose his job for his social media posts that glorified police brutality. Shelide was recently put on a 30-day suspension and ordered to take sensitivity training. [Metro Times]

Demonstrations continue across the state 

A protest against police brutality and racism and a rally supporting gun rights both took place on June 18 at the Capitol Building in Lansing. Michigan Radio reports that there were a few confrontational moments, but the events continued peacefully. [Michigan Radio] 

A unity march and a Juneteenth celebration took place in Grand Rapids on Friday. U.S Rep. Justin Amash participated in the march. The June 19 event marked the first time the Libertarian politician has participated in a Grand Rapids march; Amash has introduced legislation that helps protect law enforcement from liability. The Juneteenth celebration featured food, spoke word and poetry by Black artists, music, and Zumba. [WZZM 13] 

Michigan politicians talk police reform 

Michigan Democratic Sen. Jeff Irwin of district 17 recently spoke with WDET about Senate Bill 945, new legislation that calls for an increase in police training and a decrease in excessive force. “I think the most important thing we can do as a Legislature is to change that [us vs. them] attitude and change that thinking about the role of a police department in our communities,” he told the station. [WDET] 

On Wednesday, the Michigan House approved House Resolution 277 in a 79-29 vote. The resolution discourages local government from “defunding or abolishing their local police departments.” Following the vote, the House intended to send copies of the resolution to the Michigan Townships Association, the Michigan Municipal League, the Michigan Association of Counties, the Michigan Association of Mayors, and the Michigan Association of Township Supervisors. [MLive] 

In a recent interview with Bridge Michigan, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist recalled feeling “dehumanized” when he pulled over when at the age of 16 for driving one mile over the speed limit. He said these interactions with police explain some of the anxiety people of color carry. “It’s been a generational issue,” he said. “We have a generational opportunity to fix it.” Gilchrist also spoke about leading the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. [Bridge Michigan] 

Students stand united 

Demonstrators in Kalamazoo started their June 20 protest — called March for Justice & Voter Registration — at Western Michigan University’s campus before marching to the city’s downtown area. The event was organized by Mothers of Hope in partnership with Leaders in Training the Youth, a WMU student organization. A vehicle nearly struck demonstrators during the event, but nobody was injured. [MLive] 

A group of protesters gathered outside the University of Michigan Regents Law Office in Flint last week. According to demonstrators, U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn both have more Black students than U-M Ann Arbor and are both underfunded. [WNEM] 


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