Detroit protesters have been at it for more than 100 days. They want big changes before they go.
Protests against police brutality have been a mainstay in the city throughout the summer. In the early morning hours of August 23, the flow of peaceful protest after peaceful protest came to a halt when police met protesters with tear gas and physical force.
Tristan Taylor is one of the organizers of Detroit Will Breathe, which has been leading the protests. He described the mood before the violence on August 23 as festive; a DJ played music as the protesters marched down Woodward Avenue, and the police response, he said, stood in stark contrast.
On Police Chief Craig’s response
Detroit Will Breathe has called for Detroit Police Chief James Craig to resign, a demand they’ve held since June 10. Craig said he won't resign, and has said the police were trying to maintain order on August 23. Taylor described Craig as being out of touch.
“His response shows the reason he has to go, because he just seems to be detached from reality and really tone deaf in terms of both where the community is at and how it really isn’t okay to visit protests against police brutality with police brutality,” Taylor said. “I just think it shows how determined he is to keep business as usual, which means a police department that acts with impunity where he defends every police officer on the force no matter what they do."
What police interactions have been like since August 23
Since August 23, Taylor said there has been very little police interaction with protesters. This is due in part to a temporary restraining order from a federal judge held by Detroit Will Breathe against the police department. To Taylor, it’s also coming from the community.
“When we’re marching in neighborhoods, the people will respond to us,” Taylor said. “DPD knows if they were to take action against the protesters that they would be exposing themselves to the community as being unnecessarily hostile to a group of people fighting for the interest of Black and brown people throughout the city.”
Why Detroit Will Breathe is more successful than the Occupy movement
When Taylor was a teenager, he was also involved with the Occupy movement, which grew out of New York City’s Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. The movement in Detroit tackled various issues, including library closures and home evictions. But Taylor said the great shortcoming of Occupy was a lack of clear demands. Taylor said that the tone and mode of the current movement, which has put forward numerous demands, is more impactful than Occupy.
“The issue of police brutality and the issue of racism is so central to this recent uprising in a way that it wasn’t in Occupy, that meant that Black and brown communities were able to play a more central role in this struggle,” Taylor said. “And what’s interesting about this iteration of mass revolt is the way in which it has been able to pull huge sections of the population. So it’s a really integrated movement that’s challenging the most formidable issue in the United States, which is racism.”
Stateside has reached out to the Detroit Police Department for comment on the issues presented by Detroit Will Breathe. Stateside has extended an open invitation to Chief James Craig to appear on the program, and will have him on as soon as he accepts the offer.
This article was written by Stateside production assistant Olive Scott.