Michiganders March: Changes in Traverse City and Protesting at PGA Tournament

As residents across the state continue to protest against police brutality and racial injustice, ”The New York Times” reports that Black Lives Matter may be the largest movement in U.S. history
Photo by Emma Klug

According to The New York Times, Black Lives Matter may now be the largest movement in U.S. history. In a story published on July 3, the paper reported that four recent polls show that about 15 million to 26 million people in the country have participated in demonstrations in support of the movement in recent weeks. These numbers peaked a month ago when half a million people protested in nearly 550 places in the U.S. on June 6. And since the protests began in Minneapolis on May 26 following the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd at the hands of the city’s police officers, there has been an average of 140 demonstrations per day across the country.

Of course, Michiganders continue to contribute to the national tally, with demonstrations still ongoing in Detroit, Shelby Township, West Bloomfield, Grand Rapids, and Muskegon. Here’s a look at protests that happened in these cities in the last week, plus other Black Lives Matter-related developments in the state from June 29-July 5: 

Detroit protesters head to the PGA Tournament 

Last week, protesters called for the resignation of Detroit Police Chief James Craig after a police vehicle drove through a crowd of demonstrators on June 28. Protesters are also demanding that officials identify, fire, and charge the officer who was driving the vehicle. [Fox 2 Detroit

Marching from the Palmer Park Community Building, about 75 Detroit Will Breathe members gathered outside the PGA’s Rocket Mortgage Tournament on July 5 to protest how Mayor Duggan and his administration “bends over backward for billionaires,” the Detroit Free Press reports. Protesters did not enter the Detroit Golf Club, but they chanted from outside the gate and held signs. [Detroit Free Press

That same day, protesters staged a “die-in” — a form of protesting where demonstrators lie still on the ground — near the Detroit Police Department’s 4th Precinct. The group remained the ground for almost 9 minutes in tribute to George Floyd, who was killed after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The event was organized by the Metro Detroit Political Action Network, Detroit Queer Activist Coalition, Abolish ICE, and Hydrate Detroit. [The Detroit News]

Suburbanites continue to call for firings of city officials 

Protesters continue to gather in Shelby Township to call for the firing of the city’s police chief, Robert Shelide as well as the city’s trustee, John Vermeulen. Shelide was suspended without pay for racially insensitive social media posts over a month ago, and Vermeulen has remained silent about a Facebook post that many have called out for being racist. Last week, Shelby Township police put up fencing on the side of the road — they say it was to keep protestors from getting too close to the street. But demonstrators tore it down and marched into Van Dyke Road as police blocked traffic. [Click on Detroit

A drive-in Black Lives Matter rally took place in West Bloomfield on July 2 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The idea for the event was inspired by a similar church service. [Click on Detroit

In other suburban news, a video of a white woman pulling a pistol on a Black woman and her daughter in an Auburn Hills parking lot has been viewed millions of times on social media since it was posted last week. Police arrived on the scene and handcuffed the white woman, Jillian Wuestenberg. She and her husband, Eric Wuestenberg, are being charged with felonious assault, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard shared during a press conference on July 2. [Fox 2 Detroit

Traverse City group sees some progress 

On June 30, the Allendale Township Board of Trustees voted to keep a controversial Civil War statue in Allendale Park. Hundreds of protesters called for the removal of the statue, which depicts an enslaved child sitting at the feet of a Union and Confederate soldier, on June 27. [MLive

Following weeks of protests in Traverse City, members of the Northern Michigan Anti-Racism Task Force shared updates on July 1 on how the city is responding to their demands of local law enforcement. Their demands include reworking profiling policies, implicit bias training, and implementing body cameras. The group reported it has made some progress with city officials — for example, the first implicit bias training session will take place this week — but they will continue meeting to reach decisions on other issues. [Traverse City Record Eagle

The Kalamazoo Township Police and FBI are investigating a possible hate crime at Kalamazoo Central High School. A noose was found hanging from the school’s football stadium on July 2. Lewis Langham, a professor at Western Michigan University’s law school and a former Michigan State Police detective lieutenant, says officials are looking for the perpetrator to determine the intent of the act. [WWMT West Michigan

Protesters gathered in Portage on Saturday for a Juneteenth in July (July 4th Blackout) march. One participant said the group decided to protest on the Fourth of July to send a message that Black people are still not free in the U.S. [MLive]  

The Muskegon Black Lives Matter chapter also hosted a rally on July 4. The peaceful event focused on equality and featured local speakers who talked about topics like systemic racism. After the speaking portion of the event, the group marched through the city’s downtown area. [MLive]

Gov. Whitmer shares two big announcements 

On June 29, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shared a four-part plan to bring more police reform policies to the state. Among many things, the Whitmer Administration is supporting legislation that bans chokeholds, limits the use of no-knock warrants, and classifies false, racially motivated 911 class as hate crimes. “All Michiganders, no matter their community or the color of their skin, deserve equal treatment under the law,” Whitmer said. “This proposal will help us ensure that law enforcement officials treat all Michiganders with humanity and respect and will help us keep our communities safe.” [Hour Detroit

The following day, Whitmer announced that she will rename Lansing’s Lewis Cass Building the Elliott-Larsen Building. Cass, a former U.S. senator from Michigan, was a slave owner. The new building will now be named after the state representatives who sponsored the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which bans racial and other forms of discrimination. [Detroit Free Press]

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