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Anti-jail protest overtakes Wayne County Commission meeting

'No new jails, no old jails' protesters chant

DETROIT – The Wayne County Commission meeting was interrupted Thursday by anti-jail protesters. 

"No new jails, no old jails," the protesters chanted. The meeting was delayed and evacuated. 

The protesters said they are demanding that all plans to build a new Wayne County jail be abandoned. They released these statements ahead of Thursday's protest: 

"We don't want a new jail, whether it's built by Gilbert's Rock Ventures or any other company. In Detroit, our communities are struggling just to get by, and the county wants to spend millions of our tax dollars to lock more of us up when that money could be going toward creating more affordable housing or stopping school closures. Our communities know what we need, and it isn't more cages," said Alicia Hilgers of Detroit Eviction Defense.

"When you've had tens of thousands of mostly black, working-class Detroiters evicted from their homes or denied access to basic necessities such as water, and then the county says it's going to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars building new cages to warehouse mostly black and brown working class people, it should be clear that this isn't actually about what's good for Detroit. Criminalization is the underside of gentrification, and we're going build a movement powerful enough to put it to a stop," said Kaif Syed of Michigan Abolition Alliance. 

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans spoke earlier this week about options to move forward with a jail project along Gratiot Avenue. Dan Gilbert's company Rock Ventures wants to build an entirely new criminal justice complex up the road from the site on Gratiot Avenue. In return, Wayne County would give up the current jail site to make way for a new soccer stadium. 

READ: Wayne County executive: Gilbert's jail site offer warrants deeper analysis

Earlier this month, Wayne County Commissioner Ray Basham said he is against the proposal. He said the deal isn't a win-win, but a win for Gilbert and a loss for county taxpayers.

Basham said the best thing for the county would be to finish what it started with the jail on Gratiot Avenue and renovating the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. He said he's confident most of the other 14 commissioners will agree with him.

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