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Detroit police apologize after breaking up Native American sugarbush ceremony

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Detroit Sugarbush Project
Organizers with the Detroit Sugarbush Project say Detroint police broke up a traditional sap-gathering and boiling ceremony on Friday.

Native American organizers of a sugarbush ceremony broken up by Detroit police over the weekend said Monday that they won't stop gathering to mark their traditions.

Organizers from the Detroit Sugarbush Project said they were tapping maple trees and boiling the sap for syrup when police arrived.

The Detroit Sugarbush Project has been hosting the event annually for three years. Organizers said it's based on the traditions of the Anishinaabe and Potawatomi tribes and involves tapping sap from maple trees and boiling it over a sacred fire, as well as a feast.

Detroit police they responded to River Rouge Park at around 8 p.m. on Friday. A Michigan State Trooper in a helicopter reported the ceremony's fire, the department said in a statement.

Detroit Sugarbush Project organizers said they had a valid memorandum of understanding and burn permit to hold the event, but police said both had expired and that the organizers did not have proof of insurance.

Organizers said officers asked them to douse the fire and leave.

Antonio Rafael is one of the organizers of the event. He said although attendees left after the police disruption, their work continues.

"This project was built in that nature and that idea of bringing our community together through work, through sweat, and sugar, and joy," Rafael said.

The Detroit Police Department said no one was arrested or detained during the incident.

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