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Police brutality protest in Detroit turns violent; 21-year-old killed

Ryan Patrick Hooper
Shortly before tear gas was deployed by Detroit police, several protesters prayed in the middle of the street.

Update: May 30, 2020 4:20 p.m.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig says 60 people were arrested during Friday night’s melee. Thirty-seven of them were from outside the city of Detroit.

“So you might ask, where’d they come from?” Craig said. “Westland, Farmington Hills, Grand Blanc, Hamtramck, West Bloomfield, Warren, Lincoln Park, Clarkston, Dearborn. My message is simple: If you want to disrupt, stay home and disrupt in your own community.”

Mayor Mike Duggan praised many of the activists who organized and participated in the demonstration, which remained peaceful for hours. He said many of those activists have good relationships with the Detroit Police Department, and were cognizant of the risks associated with gathering during the pandemic in a city that’s lost more than 1,300 people to COVID-19. But he says a small number of people from outside the city acted recklessly, with “no masks, no regard for the health of Detroiters.”

“You have to ask, why?” Duggan said. “Maybe all of these people come from cities whose police departments are not in need of their voices and they felt they had to come down here. Or more likely they came here to damage property and to throw rocks and bottles at our police officers.”

With another protest expected to get underway Saturday afternoon, Maurice Hardwick with Live In Peace Movement – known to many as “Pastor Mo” – issued a warning for anyone looking to agitate or provoke:

“I will tell those … who want to come in here, think you’re going to start something tonight: Hit 94 and go back the other way. Hit 94 and go back the other way, ‘cause it ain’t going down.”

Update: May 30, 2020 1:05 p.m.

In a statement Saturday morning, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans noted that tens of thousands of people of all races and ethnicities gathered across the country to protest peacefully on Friday.

"The death of George Floyd has poured additional salt into the already open and unhealed wounds of brutality and racism faced by so many of us in the African American community," Evans said.

"We need a safe place for people to peacefully express their understandable anger and frustration over the systemic inequality people of color continue to face in the United States and the clear lack of impetus towards systemic solutions. We give “lip service” to the problems and issues but not much more."

Evans noted there were situations across the country where both law enforcement and protesters worked to de-escalalate things before anything turned violent.

"Some of those protests were marred by violence, I am told, started by a small number of agitators intent on physical confrontation with law enforcement. In Detroit, we saw violence result in the shooting death of a young man on our streets. The problem is systemic inequality and shooting does nothing to cure that ill.

We can spend our time critiquing the litany of tragic events that now include Mr. Floyd or we can spend that time advocating strongly for the systemic changes we need, want and deserve as fully vested citizens of this country.”

Update: May 30, 2020 11:41 a.m.

Detroit police issued a statement today saying the details of a preliminary report they released early this morning, regarding a man shot during protests in Detroit, had incorrect information.

Police initially said an unknown suspect fired shots into a crowd of protesters last night from a Dodge Durango, striking a 19-year old male victim who later died. That information was wrong.

Detroit police say after further investigation, they believe at approximately 11:30 p.m. Friday night, in the area of Congress and Randolph, an unknown male suspect approached a silver Dodge Caliber in a parking lot. The victim, a 21-year old male from East Pointe, was the driver and two other males were in the car.

The unknown suspect fired shots into the car. Everyone in the car, including the victim, fled from the vehicle. It's not known whether the victim was shot while in the car or as he fled.

The shooter is described as a black male, 17-20 years old, and fled in an unknown direction on foot.

The shooting victim was transported to a local hospital where he later died.

The circumstances surrounding this incident are still being investigated.  Detroit police caution this remains preliminary information and could change after more investigation.

Update: May 30, 2020 1:58 a.m.

After a large protest outside Detroit Police headquarters largely dispersed around 6 p.m. Friday evening, about 200 people continued to march.

Around 10 p.m., police showed up to disperse the protesters.

The Detroit Police Department confirmed that at around 11:30 p.m. an unknown suspect in a gray Dodge Durango pulled up in the area of Congress and Randolph, and fired shots into the crowd, striking a 19 year old man, who died at a hospital.

The DPD did not say whether the man was part of the protest or a bystander.

Police then chased the crowd around downtown Detroit with tear gas and pepper spray, trying to divide the protesters. There was some vandalism, including broken car windows, and some in the crowd threw rocks and bottles at the police. More than a dozen people were arrested. 

Detroit Police Chief James Craig spoke in a Facebook Live video late on Friday evening.

“You know, I love this community and we work very well with this community, and we know that the individuals from outside the city of Detroit who converged at the protest location don’t represent this city. They’re not from this city,” said Craig. “And so I’m just asking for all Detroiters to continue to support us, let’s peacefully protest. But outside of that, we’re not going to tolerate it. We’re not going to tolerate criminal acts.”

WDET's Ryan Patrick Hooper contributed to this story.

Original post: May 29, 2020 8:22 p.m.

George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police has sparked protests nationwide—including some in Michigan.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Detroit Police headquarters on Friday. They called for prosecuting the officer who killed Floyd, and for an end to police violence and systemic racism.

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Protesters outside Detroit Police headquarters on Friday.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been arrested,and faces murder charges. But in Detroit, protester Nadine Hall said that took too long, and it’s not enough.

“We just all have to change the system. The systematic racism has to end, one way or the other,” Hall said. “And I’d rather that it end peacefully with us all working together, or in a civil war, which is what it seems like we’re heading for.”

The crowd in Detroit consisted of large numbers of people of all races. That heartened protester Tom Albrecht, who’s white.

Albrecht said a sense of sadness, anger, and helplessness drove him to take action, and he hopes others will do the same.

“There needs to be a lot more emphasis of white people talking to other white people to counteract this type of heavy racism that we’ve seen expressed from the top down,” Albrecht said.

The protest in front of police headquarters was peaceful. Officers even handed out masks and protective wear to protesters.

But the protest split off into several smaller marches through surrounding streets. Some Detroit police cars were reportedly damaged.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that the Detroit Police Department confirmed an unknown suspect in a gray Dodge Durango pulled up in the area of Congress and Randolph, and fired shots into the crowd, striking a 19 year old man, who died at a hospital. That incorrect information was supplied by the police department. Police now say the shooting victim was a 21-year old East Pointe man who was sitting in a car in a parking lot and shot by someone who approached the car.

Vincent Duffy has been news director at Michigan Radio since May 2007.
Sarah Hulett is Michigan Radio’s Director of Amplify & Longform, helping reporters to do their best work.
Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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