Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says the city will continue an 8 p.m. curfew for the next week, after police used tear gas, rubber bullets, and other aggressive measures to break up groups of people violating the curfew in downtown Detroit on Sunday night.
The clashes came as Duggan, Police Chief James Craig, and some of the city’s African American pastors and neighborhood activists asked people to stay off the streets at night, and for people from outside the city to refrain from coming in for after-hours protests sparked by the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
Duggan and Craig said they have evidence that a large majority of people responsible for the skirmishes are non-Detroiters, including what they call a small but well-organized group bringing things meant to cause destruction.
“It was a group that came armed with railroad spikes and fireworks concealed in boxes labeled as food,” Dugggan said. “And the arrests were almost 80% last night of people [from] outside the city.”
Detroit Police arrested 110 people Sunday night, most for violating curfew. One person was arrested for felonious assault after allegedly throwing fireworks at a police cruiser.
Duggan did not elaborate on the the group they claim is responsible, but said that some people who were arrested came from a number of other Michigan cities, as well as Tennessee and Washington, D.C.
“Our investigation of the group that is instigating this is not over. It is very intense,” Duggan said. “We understand what’s coming. We also understand that if we allow these groups to gather after dark, we will suffer the same fates as other cities.”
“We are not going to let people attack our city under cover of darkness.”
Ray Winans, head of the anti-violence group Keeping Them Alive, said he participated in an earlier, peaceful anti-police brutality march on Sunday. He said protesters from that group were not the same people involved in the nighttime disturbances.
“To see it go from that, to a whole different group of folks, it became scary,” Winans said. “It is not our Detroiters that’s coming downtown, and antagonizing, disrespecting, and trying to destroy our communities.”
“And the thing that I refuse to do is sit on the sideline, and watch some people infiltrate our city and then put boys and girls of colors on the forefront of it. You know when you’re being set up. It was an outright set-up.”
Winans and others said that community groups and Detroit Police have had an ongoing, productive dialogue in recent years about police-community relations. They said that if non-Detroiters have issues with their own police departments, they should take it up there.
Craig by and large praised his officers’ conduct as “professional” on Sunday, even as some protesters decried what they called aggressive escalation tactics. Craig did acknowledge one videotaped incident in which a police officer shoved an unidentified person to the ground, saying the department “quickly and immediately opened an investigation” into the incident. He said three officers have been injured during the three nights of unrest.
And after police handcuffed at least one journalist Sunday night, and others reported being tear-gassed and struck by rubber bullets, the police department announced Monday it would be rolling out a new way for journalists to identify themselves. Members of the press will be issued different color-coded press credentials each day.