Wayne County, state leaders respond to killing of George Floyd, related protests

Metro Detroit representatives encourage peaceful protests amid national outcry against police brutality

DETROIT – Wayne County leaders are publicly responding to the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd as protests against police brutality are held in Detroit and around the nation.

MORE: 127 arrested in Detroit amid protests Tuesday night

Floyd was killed during an altercation with Minneapolis police on May 25. Now-former police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, knelt on Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and laying on the ground, even as he said he could not breathe. The officer continued to kneel on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin is being charged with second-degree murder. Three other Minneapolis police officers involved are expected to be charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

In response to the killing of Floyd, protests against police brutality and in support of Black Americans were held across the country. A “March Against Police Brutality” was held in Downtown Detroit on Friday afternoon in what began as a peaceful protest and later became more chaotic. Protests have since continued each day in Detroit and around the state -- some more peaceful than others.

Wayne County representatives and Michigan representatives have made the following statements regarding Floyd’s death and the protests that followed:

Detroit Police Chief James Craig

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said the police officer involved in the killing of George Floyd should be arrested for murder.

“It was clear evidence, that suggests it was probable cause to arrest this officer for murder,” said Chief James Craig with Detroit Police.

WATCH: Detroit Police Chief James Craig calls the death of George Floyd ‘murder’

“Even when once officer engages in excessive force, we all share the disappointment for the dishonors it brings to our badge,” Craig said. “When you talk about trust, it’s the glue. We mustn’t forget, as police officers, we work for the community."

Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson

“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. The toll of Black men being killed before America’s eyes may have desensitized some in this city, state and country, but Black families who struggle to put food on the table and avoid COVID-19, are also tasked with the job of teaching their babies how not to become prey and to avoid death at the hands of the police. But there is nothing Black parents can tell their children that will keep them safe, and Black families are not afforded the luxury of being desensitized to murder. Each time this occurs anywhere in America, it is felt by our entire community and reminds us of how dangerous life is and how quickly it can be snatched from one of our own. No one can expect this magnitude of hurt, pain, fear and uncertainty to be absorbed without manifesting itself in some way, shape or form.

So, today, I stand with Detroiters. I share their fear and their anger. I share the terrorizing thought that this could happen again in Detroit to one of our own, while bracing for parts of America to explode as we look for answers to why, yet another man of color has been murdered. No one wants to see harm done to our residents, or damage done to our beloved Detroit, but I have truly run out of answers for how to communicate these feelings to those who either don’t get it or who just don’t value Black lives. What the city, state, and country is seeing from Detroiters at this moment is a cry out for justice from the system that many of us support and protect, and acknowledgment that Black men matter and are critical to our families and communities.

Answers to this problem rarely present themselves through moments of anguish, pain, or the destruction of property. Our city has yet to recover from riots of the past. So, I ask all Detroiters to take a moment to recognize these feelings of anger, fear, anxiety and uncertainty as an indication that more thought must go into our next action.”

Detroit Pistons Head Coach Dwane Casey

“Fifty-four years ago I was an eight-year-old boy living in rural Kentucky when the schools were desegregated. I walked into a white school where I was not wanted nor welcomed. At that time there were no cell phones to record my treatment, no cable news stations with 24/7 coverage, no social media to record the reality of the situation or offer support nor condemnation. But I can remember exactly how I felt as an eight-year-old child. I felt helpless. I felt as if I was neither seen, nor heard, nor understood. As I have watched the events unfold in the days following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a city where I coached and once called home, I see how many people continue to feel those same feelings - helpless, frustrated, invisible, angry.

I understand the outrage because it seems the list continues to grow: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. The injustices continue to mount and nothing seems to be changing.

Fifty-four years later, my son is now eight years old and I look at the world he is growing up in and wonder, how much has really changed? How often is he judged on sight? Is he growing up in a world where he is seen, and heard, and understood? Does he feel helpless? Will he be treated like George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery? What have we really done in the last 54 years to make his eight-year-old world better than mine was? We all have to be and do better.

We have to change the way we see and hear each other. We have to work together to find solutions to make the justice system just. Black, white and brown people have to work together to find new answers. The only way we can stop the systemic problems that people of color have faced all our lives is through honesty and transparency. We have to understand why people are at their limit at this moment. It takes empathy, in its truest form. It takes a culture shift, it takes action. Let’s stop the injustice now. Let’s not allow another generation to continue to live in a world where they are treated as unequal. Now is the time for real change.”

Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans

“The death of George Floyd has poured additional salt into the already open and unhealed wounds of brutality and racism faced by so many of us in the African American community. We need a safe place for people to peacefully express their understandable anger and frustration over the systemic inequality people of color continue to face in the United States and the clear lack of impetus towards systemic solutions. We give “lip service” to the problems and issues but not much more.

Yesterday, tens of thousands of people of all races and ethnicities gathered in cities across America to peacefully protest. In many cases, both protesters and law enforcement worked to deescalate situations before they turned violent. I commend both for their restraint.

Some of those protests were marred by violence, I am told, started by a small number of agitator’s intent on physical confrontation with law enforcement. In Detroit, we saw violence result in the shooting death of a young man on our streets. The problem is systemic inequality and shooting does nothing to cure that ill.

We can spend our time critiquing the litany of tragic events that now include Mr. Floyd or we can spend that time advocating strongly for the systemic changes we need, want and deserve as fully vested citizens of this country.”

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy

“As my office starts to receive more information about some of the instances of violence from last night’s protests, it is important to note that an overwhelming number of people were engaged in peaceful protest. The death of George Floyd is something that has profoundly affected our nation. Peaceful demonstrations with respect for all is absolutely warranted in this situation. The point of protesting what happened to Mr. Floyd can be lost when violence becomes the narrative of the protest. I urge everyone to continue to honor Mr. Floyd by engaging in safe, peaceful and civil protest of his murder."

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist

Michigan’s Governor and Lieutenant Governor also released a statement on Saturday encouraging safe, peaceful protests amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic:

"As Americans, this is one of the most challenging periods in our lifetimes. People in communities of color across the nation and right here in Michigan are feeling a sense of exhaustion and desperation. Communities are hurting, having felt that calls for equity, justice, safety, and opportunity have gone unheard for too long. We stand in solidarity with those who are seeking equitable justice for everyone in our state. We can’t live in a society and a country where our rights and our dignity are not equal for all. The First Amendment right to protest has never been more important, and in this moment when we are still battling a killer virus, it is crucial that those who choose to demonstrate do so peacefully, and in a way that follows social distancing guidelines to protect public health. Our administration is working closely with local elected officials, public safety, and faith, and youth leaders to encourage communities across the state to designate areas for peaceful demonstrations where people can make their voices heard. There will no doubt be more tough days ahead, but we must pull together and treat our fellow Michiganders with dignity, compassion, and humanity.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

“I have struggled to find the right words to describe the disappointment and frustration I feel in knowing that George Floyd’s life was taken from him at the hands of law enforcement in such a terrible, yet preventable way. But what further angers me is that this behavior is far too common. We’ve seen this same dynamic play out in cities all across this nation for people like Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and Stephon Clark, and while I know there is good in the work done by so many individuals who truly serve and protect their communities, I must recognize the pain that the black community and other communities of color continue to face.

“It’s 2020 and we still have tens of thousands rallying in our streets asking only for equality. We have yet another video and one more hashtag of a black person whose life mattered, a person who can no longer be a father, son, brother and friend to the people he loved.

“The fact is this: we cannot lose one more life simply because we’re unwilling to acknowledge that there are problems with how and who we police. Law enforcement agencies must strongly and loudly condemn racism and police brutality. But that alone isn’t enough. We also must make meaningful changes to ensure no one else loses their life in the way George Floyd did.

“These tragedies cannot continue to be written off as unfortunate accidents, or the rogue acts of a bad cop, or the results of poor training, or the consequence of too few resources. We cannot continue to offer words of solidarity with those in our communities of color only to have them continue to be wronged by a system that has failed to protect them over and over again. We cannot continue to say that this behavior is unacceptable -- to allow another cry for justice to pass us by -- without also taking meaningful action to prevent it from happening again. We must put our words into action.

“In the coming weeks, my office will be taking a series of actions to bring about concrete changes that are long overdue. This announcement is the first step of our commitment to walk the path together with those who march for equal justice. My office is also entering into the collaborative process with key stakeholders in law enforcement, community groups, the Legislature and other agencies within state government to identify and implement concrete ways to ensure all people -- regardless of their race, color or zip code -- are treated with respect and dignity.

“I recognize that this change may not happen overnight, but I could not let another day pass without making it clear that as long as I serve this great state and even after my time is up, I will say their names, I will fight for equality, and I will ensure that accountability starts with me.”

Michigan Civil Rights Commission Chair Stacie Clayton

“Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘For evil to succeed, all it needs is for good men to do nothing.’ The Michigan Civil Rights Commission stands with the many good men and women in cities such as Detroit, Flint, Eastpointe, Warren and Grand Rapids who are doing something by engaging in peaceful protests against police brutality and the outright murder of George Floyd. The loud and overt objection of diverse groups of citizens to prejudiced behavior and cowardice is the action needed to dismantle the ingrained, implicit, and often explicit, racial bias that is at the heart of the killings of Mr. Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and far too many others.

“Hundreds of thousands of people across the country are taking to the streets, seeking to change the culture that tacitly allows the killing of unarmed African Americans. These protests are occurring because African American citizens are being killed because of the color of their skin, instead of receiving the fair treatment that other races enjoy. Not only must we demonstrate in the streets, we must demonstrate better respect for life. We must demonstrate in places such as courtrooms by serving on juries to fulfill our civic duty. We must demonstrate at the polls by exercising our right to vote. These are the actions needed to redress institutionalized racism, eradicate systemic disparities and provide for better treatment of people of color.”

“So, let us not be distracted by the ignorant violence of outside agitators seeking to infiltrate a righteous cause for their own agenda. Let us grasp the opportunity of having a national spotlight on racially motivated killings and bringing to the forefront the images of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and others. In a collective voice let us say, ‘We see you still and will never forget you.’ I pray that the fight to end inequity and discrimination based on a person’s religion, race, color, sex, age or national origin continues long after the last protest has ended.”

Rochester Hills Mayor and President of the United States Conference of Mayors Bryan K. Barnett

“This country has once again found itself in grief, in anger, and in reflection. Once again, it stems from the unjust death of a black American. Mayors are united in the condemnation of the brutality and discrimination that black Americans continue to experience day after day, year after year in this country. We are also united in support of peaceful expression. Our cities need healing and our people need to be heard. This must be done however without bringing greater pain and destruction to our cities.

This afternoon we convened a call with police chiefs from major cities to discuss how we keep peace and help our cities mend divisions. In the last few days we have seen leadership from mayors, police chiefs and citizens alike. We serve common cause and must use this moment to create real change. Every American and every level of government has a role to play in ending this painful cycle and ensuring there is equal justice for all. Mayors will be a force for uniting this country in pursuit of that mission.”

Congressman Paul Mitchell, Michigan’s 10th District

“America is going through one of the most tumultuous and divisive times we’ve experienced in recent history. Many of us are watching the news and are discouraged by what we see -- from coverage of the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered our economy and taken thousands of lives, to the unjust killing of George Floyd and protests over racial inequalities in our society.

As Americans and Michiganders, we must use this moment not to turn against each other and become more divided, but to come together. It is time for all of us to examine ourselves, our hearts, our families, and our friends with a simple question -- are we respecting the rights and valuing other humans in what we say and do?

I want it to be very clear that I do not support the violence, property damage, looting, and rioting that we have observed across the country over the past couple of days. Those responsible for these crimes must be prosecuted swiftly and to the fullest extent of the law. Anarchists and agitators are preventing hard, deliberate, and overdue conversations from happening -- conversations that must happen so we can form a more perfect union. Those who are protesting peacefully have a message that shouldn’t be drowned out by those taking advantage of the situation.

Speaking out about racial discrimination and human rights must not be a left or right issue -- it is a human issue. As human beings in this country and this world, we must care about each other’s rights and about another’s life and doing so does not make you anti-police or anti-rule of law. We -- collectively, and as a nation -- must make a concerted and deliberate choice to address this issue, guided by patience and empathy, driven by strength and determination, and with a recognition that we are all human and all have inherent value.”

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About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.