Michiganders March: Ferndale Kids Protest and Grand Rapids Remembers Breonna Taylor

Plus, more black lives matter news from June 8-14 in the state
black lives matter police brutality protests
Photograph by Emma Klug

Protests continue across the country in response to police brutality and systemic racism. On Saturday evening in Atlanta, protesters called for justice for a 27-year-old black man named Rayshard Brooks, who was fatally shot by police at a Wendy’s the night before. Law enforcement was called because Brooks fell asleep in his car while waiting in the drive-thru line. Atlanta Police Department Chief Erika Shields also resigned on Saturday. Then yesterday, about 15,000 people gathered in Brooklyn to participate in a rally and silent protest for black trans lives. The family of Layleen Polanco, a 27-year-old transgender woman who died last year while in solitary confinement at Riker’s Island, spoke at the event. New footage shows that guards waited 90 minutes to call for help when Polanco had an epileptic seizure in her jail cell. Here’s what’s happened in Michigan in the past week: 

Detroit protesters share their demands  

After 11 days of demonstrations in Detroit, Detroit Will Breathe co-organizers, Tristan Taylor and Nakia Wallace, met with Mayor Mike Duggan to discuss their demands. Their demands include defunding the police department, ending Project Green Light, abolishing tax foreclosures, and creating more accountability for abusive cops. [Hour Detroit

Detroit Will Breathe also raised nearly $25,000 in three days on GoFundMe. The group will use the money to purchase medical supplies, snacks and water, sound equipment and other protesting supplies, and food and gas money for organizers. The money will also support medics and volunteers. Other funds will be set aside in case of an emergency. [Hour Detroit

The Detroit Police Department announced last week that it was investigating a protestor’s claim that she suffered a brain injury when an officer fired a rubber bullet at her head at close range. The encounter happened on May 31, and her medical records and photos reportedly show a skull fracture and brain bleeding. [Deadline Detroit]

While demonstrations continued in the city all last week, protesters associated with Detroit Will Breathe decided not to march on Thursday and Friday. The group took two days to refocus, re-energize, and take a break before returning to protests on Saturday and Sunday. [Click On Detroit]

Suburban supporters march 

Protesters supporting Black Lives Matter demonstrated in Pinckney on June 12. The town, which has a population of about 3,000, is made up almost entirely of white people. [Michigan Radio

A protest for children took place in Ferndale last weekend. Starting at Nine Mile Road, families carried signs with Black Lives Matter messages. Ferndale police also walked with the crowd. [Fox 2 Detroit

In other metro Detroit news, a white Warren Police Department officer is on administrative leave after arresting a black Amazon driver for a traffic violation. A video of the arrest was shared on social media, and Mayor Jim Fouts posted a Facebook status — which he later deleted — that said he has “zero tolerance for this disgusting act against an innocent person.” [Metro Times]

And, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper is submitting a 2014 case, which involves the killing of a 25-year-old black man named McKenzie Cochran by Northland Mall security, to the Michigan attorney general’s office for review. The guards placed a knee on McKenzie’s back and held him down, and he died of positional asphyxia. The security guards were never charged. [WXYZ

Hundreds gather in Lansing 

Hundreds of protesters marched in Lansing on June 10. Lansing Mayor Andy Schor and Police Chief Daryl Green joined the protest, which was hosted by the Michigan NAACP Youth & College Division. Demonstrators took a silent kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck — once they arrived at the Capitol building. [Lansing State Journal

Grand Rapids residents honor Breonna Taylor 

A June 12 march in Grand Rapids focused on justice for Breonna Taylor. The 26-year-old Grand Rapids native was killed in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment by police on March 13. None of the officers involved in her death have been charged, and members of Taylor’s family spoke during the event. [MLive

Flint artists paint the town 

As part of a community art project between Gallery on the Go, Black Lives Matter Flint, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, and the Flint Public Art Project, artists gathered on Sunday to paint “Black Lives Matter” on Martin Luther King Avenue in Flint. [MLive]

Investigator to review Kalamazoo protest response 

Following protests in Kalamazoo in which authorities deployed tear gas on demonstrators, city officials are hiring an investigator to determine if officers handled situations appropriately. The investigator — to be hired by Dorla Bonner, the city’s director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — will review public safety procedures. [WKZO

Local business owners face backlash  

The owner of Detroit’s Hot Taco and Town Pump Tavern restaurants, Sean Harrington, is facing backlash after racist posts he shared on Facebook were uncovered. Harrington also was criticized in 2019 when he tried to abruptly evict building residents, many of whom were low-income. [Eater Detroit]

Royal Oak’s Holiday Market also received criticism online after management allegedly told employees they could be fired for wearing Black Lives Matter stickers on their uniforms. Now, co-owner Tom Violante Jr. says Holiday Market is mass-producing pins for staff who want to show their support for the movement and making a $2,500 donation to the Equal Justice Initiative. [Eater Detroit]

Michigan colleges talk student-athletes and protesting

The Detroit Free Press conducted a poll last week to see which colleges and universities in the state would allow student-athletes to protest. Officials with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University said they supported players who protest, including kneeling during the national anthem. Meanwhile, Wayne State University’s athletic director, Rob Fournier, says “student-athletes, when they put on the jersey, recognize they are representing a university and not themselves.” [Detroit Free Press

Whitmer clarifies stance on defunding the police 

During an Instagram Live interview with The Root, Gov. Whitmer said she supports the “spirit” of efforts to defund the police. Yet, as her office later clarified, she does not support eliminating funding for law enforcement. [The Detroit News]

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