Detroit — One man was killed and dozens arrested as peaceful daytime protests in the city gave way to violence Friday night. Demonstrators displayed anger over police brutality in America, clashing with city police who fought back with tear gas.
Detroit police Chief James Craig confirmed shortly after midnight that a man was shot near a large gathering of protesters at Cadillac Square.
The shooting occurred near Congress and Randolph when someone in a gray Dodge Durango fired shots into the crowd, hitting a 19-year-old, according to police. The shooter fled the scene; the victim was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said. Police said the circumstances surrounding the shooting are under investigation.
The shooting occurred as Detroit News reporter was doing a Facebook Live video of the protest. In the video, shots can be heard, prompting people to run from the area as others call out for police to provide aid. (Warning: Graphic language and content.)
Craig said officers made more than 40 arrests and at least three-fourths were from outside the city. Some residents urged the agitators to leave, he said.
“It started out peacefully and the vast majority of protesters came here with the best intentions, and I applaud them for wanting to be heard,” Craig said in a phone interview. “But this escalated by a small group.”
The situation grew tense as officers near Randolph and Congress formed a line as protesters approached, arms uplifted, chanting “hands up, don’t shoot.” Officers during what appeared to be face-off moved the line back. Protesters threw bottles as others leaned out of upper levels of a parking garage, cheering the action.
Police stood ready with zip ties and ordered the crowd to disperse or face arrest. Tear gas was deployed by police as they pushed protesters back in an attempt to regain ground. Traffic backed up down side streets as the scene played out on Randolph.
Skirmishes continued into the early morning hours as cops continued to disperse the crowd while people drove around city streets squealing their tires and hanging out windows.
“I was watching the protest and then when the sun went down everything started going crazy,” said Desiree Watt, 28, of Detroit. She went back to her car in the parking lot of Checker Bar where she saw it was full of bullet holes and the back window was shot out. It became a crime scene, and police investigated.
One command officer was struck with a rock Friday night and was transported to a local hospital, Craig said as the sound of sirens could be heard downtown. A second officer on bike patrol was targeted by a driver in a pursuit on the freeway, but he was not injured, the police chief said.
“We’re not going to tolerate criminal acts,” Craig said during a briefing earlier Friday night.
Craig said his officers also were pursuing a man from outside the city who he said ripped out the windshield of a Detroit squad car, saying “he’s still out there, but we know who he is.” Several other police cars sustained varying degrees of damage, he said.
“I will not stand by and let a small minority … attack our officers and make our community unsafe,” Craig said.
The first several hours of the demonstration were peaceful, he said, until a “small faction” came in late and “began taunting officers.”
“We know that the individuals from outside the city of Detroit who converged at the protest location don’t represent this city,” he said. “I’m just asking for all Detroiters to continue to support us. Let’s peacefully protest.”
The night’s chaos began as an afternoon march in the city calling out police brutality against African Americans. The demonstration earlier played out as similar scenes sprang up across the U.S. following the death of a black man after he was restrained by police in Minneapolis.
“I’m tired of marching,” said Detroit City Council President Pro-tem Mary Sheffield, who led the gathering in chants earlier in the day. “We are demanding justice. We are demanding it.”
The demonstration in Detroit, one in Pittsfield Township and others nationwide were charged up over the videotaped arrest of George Floyd, who died on Memorial Day after four Minneapolis police officers stopped Floyd, who was black. A white officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes.
Protestors gather at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters to demand justice for Sha’Teina Grady El and George Floyd. The Detroit News
In Detroit, thousands marched through the police headquarters parking lot to the streets around downtown Friday afternoon, chanting “no justice, no peace” and calling for new leadership for the country.
Young children held their parent’s hands, some who had fists raised in the air chanting “no justice, no peace.” Others marched with dogs on leashes, rode bikes or pushed baby strollers. Police officers on bikes and in patrol cars blocked off streets to allow the marchers to pass through the streets.
Many wore masks to follow pandemic safety orders. Some demonstrators wore blue surgical facial coverings which had “I can’t breathe” hand-written across the fabric.
“We’re going to do the work of the people,” said Victoria Burton-Harris, a Detroit attorney running for Wayne County prosecutor. “This is what we were built to do. We will get justice by any means necessary.”
Others called for more controls over how police deal with African Americans.
“Detroit is on simmer. What we saw in 1967; it could happen again,” Detroit Police Commissioner Willie Burton said. “We have to push for strong police oversight, accountability and we’ve got to fight for greater transparency.”
The Detroit protest came the same day as another protest over police treatment of a black woman as well as Floyd. Sha’Teina Grady El was given an administrative release by the Wayne Circuit Court on Friday after she was arrested this week in Ypsilanti Township. Video showed a Washtenaw County Sheriff’s deputy punching Grady El, 45, in the head during her arrest.
By Friday afternoon, Grady El was leading a crowd in protest against police brutality outside the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.
“If everybody treated people as they want to be treated,” she said, there’d be no need for a protest.”
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, meanwhile, called for “a thorough and timely” impartial investigation into Floyd’s death.
“It’s incumbent on every one of us to stand up for what is right,” Whitmer said during a press briefing Friday. “We have to hold people accountable. People that perpetuate these abhorrent actions.
“George Floyd’s death in the deaths of many others — Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride — they are not isolated incidents, but they’re a part of a systemic cycle of racial injustice in our country.”
Craig said Thursday that within 48 hours of seeing the news of Floyd’s death, he put out a memo to his officers reminding them that the choke-hold the Minneapolis officers used on Floyd is banned in the city.
During Friday’s protest in Detroit, Bradley Williams, 55, said his father always told him to be cautious around police, and as a father of three sons, he taught them the same.
“Something has to be done. It’s your job to protect your partner’s back,” said Williams of Redford Township. “You’re responsible for each other. You can’t control your partner and he gets out of hand, it’s just really sad.
“It starts from the top. If we start holding each other accountable, that’s where it starts.”
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