Detroit Police Chief James Craig is defending officers’ use of force to break up a protest on Saturday night.
Officers used batons, gas, and other aggressive means to remove protesters gathered in a downtown Detroit intersection. 44 people were arrested.
The group Detroit Will Breathe had called on people to occupy the intersection, demanding an end of Operation Legend in Detroit. That’s a Trump Administration anti-crime initiative that’s sent federal agents to help reduce violent crime in some U.S. cities.
Craig says Detroit Police have been “patient” with anti-police brutality protests throughout the summer, since George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis Police in late May. But he said he draws the line at occupying streets.
“I am not going to let any group set up a Seattle zone of lawlessness here in the city of Detroit,” Craig said.
Craig said Detroit Will Breathe’s agenda of rejecting federal agents and de-funding police is not one that reflects public opinion in Detroit.
“De-funding the police is not something they want here in Detroit,” Craig said. “In fact, what I’m constantly told is ‘Chief, you need to hire more police officers.’ Removing federal agents is not what they want.”
“At this point, this is not about George Floyd. This is individuals who have an agenda that’s largely not supported by Detroiters.”
Detroit Will Breathe has led weeks of mostly-peaceful anti-police brutality protests in the city since Floyd’s death. This was the first time police and protesters have clashed violently since June.
Craig said force was justified because some protesters had disobeyed lawful orders to disperse, and resisted arrest. But Detroit Will Breathe leader Tristan Taylor and others said the police simply unleashed brutal force on peaceful protesters.
Some videotaped incidents seem to show Detroit officers using excessive force on people who were not resisting at the time. One video shows a man being clubbed and knocked down by an officer, and another shows police spraying an already-handcuffed person in the face as they lay on the ground.
Craig said three incidents of force from Saturday night are under internal investigation.