Michiganders March Forward in Fight Against Police Brutality

Here’s a quick look at the past week of protests in the state
police brutality protest michigan
A protestor holds up a sign at a march against police brutality in Royal Oak on June 6. // Photograph by Emma Klug 

After another week of protests across the country in response to the killing of George Floyd and other black people at the hand of cops, the Minneapolis City Council announced its intent to disband the city’s police department on Sunday afternoon. Bail for officer Derek Chauvin, who killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes, was also set at $1.25 million today. In other cities, protestors tore down statues of Confederate leaders and demanded budget cuts for their city’s police departments. Here’s a quick look at this past week of protests in Michigan.

Detroit protests march on

Sixteen-year-old Stefan Perez emerged as a leader at the June 1 protest against police brutality in Detroit. “He is so mature for his age. I could not believe it when he said he was 16,” said one protestor to the Detroit Free Press. “He led us the entire way and people listened to him without ever knowing how old he was.” [Detroit Free Press]

Protestors marched peacefully throughout their demonstration on June 2, but the Detroit Police arrested 127 individuals that night. Most were arrested for violating the city’s 8 p.m. curfew, and Detroit protest organizer Tristan Taylor was arrested and charged with inciting a riot — although, this was later changed to a misdemeanor for resisting and not following orders. [Hour Detroit]

The following evening, however, Detroit Police Chief James Craig decided that he would not enforce the city’s 8 p.m. curfew. Protestors took a victory march that evening. [Detroit Free Press]

On June 5, about 1,000 demonstrators silently marched across the MacArthur Bridge toward Belle Isle in honor of George Floyd. Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Detroit City Council member James Tate, and former Detroit Lions player Joique Belle, and current Detroit Lions player Jamal Agnew joined the march. [Click On Detroit]

A Black Lives Matter march on Detroit’s Dequindre Cut drew hundreds of protestors on June 6, including U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. [Detroit Free Press]

After 10 days of demonstrations in Detroit, protestors plan to meet with Mayor Mike Duggan this week to discuss their demands, which includes defunding the police department, ending Project Green Light, abolishing tax foreclosures, and creating more accountability for abusive cops. [Metro Times]

Suburbanites unite in protest  

Police officers kneeled with demonstrators protesting near Somerset Collection in Troy on June 1. A protestor was intentionally struck by a vehicle earlier in the day — the victim was not injured, and a man was arrested — but law enforcement said the event was mostly peaceful. [Click on Detroit]

Protestors gathered at 8 Mile Road and Van Dyke Avenue on June 2. The group marched down Van Dyke toward the Warren Police Headquarters. The protestors were joined by police officers and Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, who decried the killing of George Floyd. “What I saw last week was absolutely outrageous,” he said. “There was no justification for it, and I know our officers would not do that.” Protestors also asked Fouts about racial incidents in his office — in 2019, Fouts, the city, and Warren’s former police commissioner were sued by the city’s former diversity coordinator for creating a “racially hostile” work environment — but the mayor declined to talk discuss the issues. [Detroit Free Press]

Nearly 4,000 people gathered on June 6 in Sterling Heights to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Demonstrators marched for about two miles on M-59. The march was organized by three teenagers, and demonstrators were led by an escort of marked police patrol units from the Macomb County’s Sherriff’s Office and Michigan State Police, and the Clinton Township, Sterling Heights, Shelby Township, and Utica police departments. That same day, protests also took place in Royal Oak, Madison Heights, and Troy.  [Macomb Daily / The Oakland Press]

Meanwhile, in other suburban news, Shelby Twp. Police Chief Robert J. Shelide admitted on June 4 that he was responsible for social media posts glorifying police brutality. Shelide has been put on a leave of absence and officials are investigating the situation. [Metro Times]

Michiganders across the state call for an end to police brutality  

Two protests were held in Holland on June 7. In the early afternoon, a “chalk protest” took place in the city’s downtown area. Participants used chalk to write out messages on the sidewalk that supported the Black Lives Matter movement. One piece read, “Matter is the minimum. Black lives are beloved.” An event, called George’s Peaceful Unity Demonstration, was also held at the Holland Unity Bridge. [WZZM 13]

Traverse City saw its largest Black Lives Matter protest on June 7. Several people from the region’s black community spoke at the rally — sharing anger over Floyd’s death and their demands of law enforcement, such as an end to racial profiling. Traverse City Police officers stood near the stage, and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter passed overhead during the event. [Record Eagle]

The Michigan Senate passes a police reform bill

The Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 945 on June 4. The bill requires all incoming law enforcement officers to complete training on implicit bias, violence de-escalation tactics, and mental health screening. Gov. Whitmer was among the political leaders who supported the bill. “Here in Michigan, we are taking action and working together to address the inequities Black Michiganders face every day,” she said. “That’s why I’m calling on Michigan police departments to strengthen their training and policies to save lives and keep people safe. I am also ready to partner with the Michigan Legislature and law enforcement officials to pass police reform bills into law.” SB 945 now heads to the Michigan House. [Hour Detroit]

Local business leaders evaluate their role racial injustice    

A letter that TCF Financial Corp. Executive Chairman Gary Torgow sent to employees, in which he demanded the prosecution of the officers involved in the killing of George Floyd, was the catalyst for the city to bring together nine Detroit companies to talk about racism on June 3. Executives from The Big Three and companies such as Illitch Holdings, DTE Energy, and Blue Cross Blue Shield gathered to speak about racial injustice. [Detroit Free Press]

Following Detroit Popcorn Co. owner Evan Singer’s inflammatory comments on social media about protestors, the company’s former owner, David Farber, came out of retirement to require the business and fire Singer. “Mr. Singer disrespected our community, customers, and employees,” Farber said. “I could not tolerate this behavior at a company that I once owned, therefore, I decided to buy back the company.” He now intends to sell the business to black investors. [DBusiness]

Michigan politicians share their opinions

 In an op-ed published in the Detroit Free Press, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan’s 8th district responded to Trump’s desire to deploy troops across the country in response to the protest. In the piece, she elaborates on how peaceful protest is core to our democracy and why top military leaders don’t want to deploy troops at home. “No one should want to see the military become a political cudgel serving any president’s narrow interests,” Slotkin wrote. “If American citizens see the military as a political tool, it will do significant harm to the perception of our military as an institution, and therefore to its ability to defend our nation.” [Detroit Free Press]

In a piece in The New York Times, Gov. Whitmer shared why she thought the coronavirus is a civil rights battle and questioned why the federal government is “undermining” her fight against the “infections” revealed by George Floyd’s death and the pandemic. “Fighting the coronavirus isn’t only a matter of public health,” she wrote. “It is a matter of civil rights.” [The New York Times]

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