Police Misconduct & Police Brutality at the Detroit Protests

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PRESS ADVISORY FROM
MICHIGAN LIBERATION, THE NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD,
and DETROIT JUSTICE CENTER

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

Contact: 

Nicholas Buckingham, nick@miliberation.org, 313-296-4979
Julie Hurwitz, JHurwitz@goodmanhurwitz.com, 313-580-1443 
Casey Rocheteau crocheteau@detroitjustice.org, (313) 499-0826 

Police Misconduct & Police Brutality at the Detroit Protests
Peaceful protestors tear gassed, beaten; rampant violence from police

DETROIT – While the Detroit Police Department and Mayor Duggan applauded a night of peaceful protests two nights ago, Michigan Liberation is compelled to share stories from those on the ground over the last 5 nights of protests.

Consistently, peaceful protestors have been met with aggressive tactics and unnecessary force. 

Witnesses present each night describe the following range of unlawful behavior by DPD:  

  • Lack of dispersal orders and/or conflicting dispersal orders with no clear safe path to disperse; tear gassing and escalating non-violent but angry crowds;
  • Driving into protesters; officers hitting people with batons: violent arrests; unwarranted serious assaults on peaceful protesters including youth; multiple officers beating protesters on the ground;
  • Injuries from rubber bullets; tear gas canisters shot directly at protesters and NLG Legal Observers rather than looping them in the air, an illegal practice that has previously resulted in deaths;
  • ”Jump out” cop strategy;
  • NLG Legal Observers and Jail Support volunteers assaulted & arrested;
  • Protesters attempting to leave being arrested — some being pulled from their cars, others blocked by “pop-up lines” of police without any warning;
  • Lack of Covid-compliant masks or PPE worn by law enforcement officers;
  • Arrested protesters being held in non-Covid compliant, unsafe conditions;
  • Badge numbers being covered up to prevent accountability for unlawful actions.

“While what’s been happening in the streets the last five days has been intense, the police response has been nothing short of throwing gasoline into the fire–instilling more fear and understandable anger. The extremely violent and unjustifiable ways in which the police escalated every situation are not only contrary to the core principles of the First Amendment but are feeding the rising tide of right-wing, racist extremism,” said Rai LaNier, from Michigan Liberation. “In addition to people who were in the streets to express their outrage and anger against police brutality, there have been right wing extremists and instigators/infiltrators such as the Boogaloo Bois whose stated intent is to exploit the chaos to incite a civil war/race war. Despite all this, protestors and volunteers have been effective at de-escalating confrontations much more than the police, who see every protester as a nail and their response as the hammer. Over the last two nights, Michigan Liberation supported youth leadership and worked to de-escalate multiple situations. The protest remained peaceful as a result of these efforts, however, protestors were met with riot police, tear gas, military tactics, armored vehicles and helicopters.”

“We condemn in the strongest terms what is at best an utter lack of discipline and at worst a complete disregard for civil rights. The police attacks on peaceful protestors and their instigation of violence must be condemned by all people and government officials,” said Julie Hurwitz, Vice President of the Michigan Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. 

We demand that Mayor Duggan lift the curfew to allow for the peaceful assembly of protestors and stop the use of military tactics against civilians such as tear gas, riot police, and armored vehicles.  

“Imposing a curfew has been used to give police the go-ahead to harass not only protesters, but any Detroiter who crosses their path. From 1967 to today, curfews are used to enable police violence and absolve them of accountability. At a time when protesters around the world are calling to defund militarized police forces, the city of Detroit instead gives them free rein to terrorize Detroiters. The curfew must be lifted immediately,” said Amanda Alexander from the Detroit Justice Center.

We seek an apology to all protestors, immediate release of all still in custody, and all charges dropped.

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Michigan Liberation is organizing to end the criminalization of Black families and communities of color in Michigan. We envision a transformation of our criminal justice system that will no longer produce mass incarceration or mass policing. We envision a state with the best public education in the nation, single payer healthcare which includes excellent mental health and healing services, and thriving Black and Brown communities. Michigan Liberation conducts grassroots organizing, lobbying and supports candidates that share our vision for Michigan.

The National Lawyers Guild is one of the nation’s oldest and largest progressive bar associations and the first in the US to be racially integrated. Our mission is to use law for the people, uniting lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers to function as an effective force in the service of the people by valuing human rights and the rights of ecosystems over property interests. 

The Detroit Justice Center (DJC) is a non-profit law firm working alongside communities to create economic opportunities, transform the justice system, and promote equitable and just cities. Each day, our team fights to reunite families, lift barriers to employment and housing, and strengthen communities by supporting small businesses, co-ops and land trusts. We are committed to individual and collective liberation—and recognize the two as inseparable.