ANN ARBOR – Protestors and visitors to Ann Arbor gathered in front of the Federal Building on Saturday to protest against the use of unidentified federal agents and police brutality.
City leaders, politicians and advocates at the rally spoke to a growing crowd on East Liberty Street about police and social justice reform, freedom of speech, racism, democracy and forward momentum.
Speakers included Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor, Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton, former gubernatorial Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, former ACLU legal director Mike Steinberg and Michigan State Representative Yousef Rabhi.
City leaders encouraged reforms on both the local and federal levels while advocates spoke on their experiences and the experiences of others. Steinberg encouraged the crowd to continue protesting until racism is dismantled. El-Sayed relayed a story from when his own freedom of speech was protected and said that current conversations must be followed by actions.
“This government action – the detention of protestors by unidentified and uninvited Federal agents - is something I never expected to happen in this country,” said event organizer Jeff Gaynor through email.
“I grew up reading about the fascist governments in Franco’s Spain, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany. While I have participated in protests for over 50 years, this issue compels me to speak up. When I didn’t see other protests in the area about this, I didn’t hesitate to organize one.”
Gaynor, a retired teacher, said that he feels it is necessary for citizens across the United States to speak up. He said his goal for the rally was to provide “a setting for people to voice their support of the best of our American values, and to encourage others to do so. If this is still a Democracy it depends on all of us to speak up.”
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When speakers were finished addressing the crowd, the protestors marched through street downtown chanting, “This is what democracy looks like” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Protestors knelt in silence at the end of the march for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time that a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd.