Detroit’s largest corporations take stand again racism

Top executives of Detroit’s nine largest corporations, including its three automakers, were set to join Mayor Mike Duggan at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday to condemn racism and injustice in America and its criminal justice system.

The news conference comes following five days of mostly peaceful demonstrations in the city protesting racial disparities and calling for justice in the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died on May 25 after four Minneapolis police officers kneeled on his body and throat during an arrest. Similar gatherings across the country have gripped the nation’s attention, especially as many have turned violent and been characterized by looting.

All four officers involved in Floyd’s death have been fired, and one last week was arrested and charged. Still, Detroit police have made more than 280 arrests, most of whom were people from Metro Detroit and not the city, during the first four nights of protests with more made Tuesday evening when a group refused to go home after curfew fell.

Set to join Duggan were top executives of the Detroit Three automakers: Mary Barra, General Motors Co. CEO; Bill Ford, Ford Motor Co.’s executive chairman; and Mark Stewart, chief operating officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV in North America.

Up until now the companies had not made public statements on the situation. A changing tide in public relations, however, was rising as ride-sharing companies and transportation startups such as Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc. and Plymouth-based electric-truck maker Rivian Motors LLC voiced their support for the black community on social media.

The traditional automakers instead this week had shared letters internally with their employees that called for continued discussions and actions to condemn intolerance and injustice. GM plans to create an inclusion advisory board by the end of the quarter. Leaders at Ford will meet with employees across the company and engage with the Ford African Ancestry Network, an employee resource group dedicated to promoting diversity.

Joining the automakers also are Jay Farner, Quicken Loans Inc. CEO; Wright Lassiter, CEO of the Henry Ford Health System; Chris Ilitch, CEO of Iltich Holdings; Dan Loepp, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan; Gerry Anderson, executive chairman of DTE Energy Co.; and Gary Torgow, executive chairman of TCF Financial Corp. Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of Detroit’s NAACP chapter, also was set to join the business leaders.

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble

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