Detroit social justice group suing police asks why election protesters were treated differently
Local activist group Detroit Will Breathe calls for police chief James Craig to resign citing disparities in protest response.
A social justice organization in Detroit that is suing the police department questioned why demonstrators protesting the results of the 2020 presidential election weren’t met with the same force as ones over the summer advocating for racial equality.
A lawsuit was filed in August by Detroit Will Breathe accusing the police of using excessive force during a protest on Aug. 22. The Detroit police department filed a countersuit against the organization. According to Fox 2 Detroit, police claim the initial lawsuit resulted in a conspiracy against the department.
Detroit Will Breathe called out the police department for the difference in their response to election-related events as citizens took to the streets to protest against President Donald Trump losing the state’s electoral votes.
Detroit police chief James Craig countered by claiming the recent protests were peaceful.
“What they conveniently left out, they were peaceful. They were chanting and we gave them – just like we gave Detroit Will Breathe – an opportunity to exercise their right to free speech,” Craig said, according to the report. “But not one time did they attack this police department and the one instance when we made an arrest, it was made without incident and it had nothing to do with the protest. And so, factually wrong once again.”
Detroit Will Breathe is a movement committed to local, national, and global change. According to its website, the group practices “militant resistance and mass collective actions, our collective achieves meaningful local change and joins our brothers and sisters and siblings across the country and globe to oppose any and all forms of police brutality, systemic racism, and exploitation.”
On Sept. 4, a judge sided with the organization. Judge Laurie J. Michelson prohibited police from using certain tactics for 14 days unless directly approached with violence.
This list included chokeholds, which were already banned from use by Detroit police, striking weapons including batons and shields, chemical agents including pepper spray, rubber bullets, and arresting any demonstrators in large numbers. Tristan Taylor, an organizer with Detroit Will Breathe told Fox 2 Detroit the group was happy with the decision and is committed to their cause.
“We are feeling good, I feel in a lot of ways vindicated,” Taylor said. “We certainly are non-violent tactically, but we don’t back down to bullies and shields.”
According to Taylor, the American Civil Liberties Union is supporting Detroit WIll Breathe in their effort to have the lawsuit dismissed. The organization has also called for Craig’s resignation.
Craig told Fox 2 Detroit that he believes a majority of the protestors with the social justice group are not even from Detroit. Taylor said his group was unfairly attacked by Detroit police during an Aug. 22 demonstration, and told the news outlet Detroit Will Breathe is not a membership group and they do not collect information on where protesters are from.
After eight years in Detroit, Craig says things have improved between the community and police and told Fox that recent uprisings across the country sparked by the death of George Floyd have diminished police staff across the country due to politics.
“You’ve lost confidence in your police department, morale is at the very bottom and police officers are saying we don’t want to work here. And it’s not just happening in Minneapolis. There’s no surprise that in New York police officers are leaving at alarming rates. Even in my old city of LA, I hear from so many Los Angeles police officers that are sick and tired of the politics and the fact that they are not being treated fairly,” Craig said.
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!