DETROIT – There was a mock trial held in the middle of Downtown Detroit on Saturday.
The Amphitheater at Hart Plaza became a courtroom of sorts, the leaders of the city were on trial. Protesters delivered testimony about how they’ve been treated during the demonstrations.
Day 23 of protests was different from the rest. Protesters didn’t march, no chants, just a couple hundred people met at Hart Plaza, quietly for a Public Tribunal against Detroit Police Chief James Craig and Mayor Mike Duggan.
Detroit will breathe Co-Founder Nakia Wallace said they are using this public hearing to present information, “What we saw over the course, particularly the first two weeks, was excessive use of force and violence towards people exercising their constitutional right to protest,” said Nakia Wallace with Detroit Will Breathe.
Many complained about police brutality, Saturday.
Jae Bass, one of the many who addressed the crowd, “We need to bring trust back to the citizens of Detroit and the people who are there to protect and serve us. It’s just not a lot of trust right now going on right now because of all the things that have been going in with Blacks in general,” said Jae Bass.
Pastor Mo ‘Maurice’ Hardwick, a prominent leader in Detroit, attended the rally, “A lot of the issues they have, they talk about are legitimate issues, I just don’t know if the way they’re going about it, to get those issues, will be productive,” said Pastor Mo ‘Maurice’ Hardwick.
Both Police Chief James Craig and Mayor Mike Duggan didn’t show up, but earlier in the week, Duggan explained why they wouldn’t be there, “I would expect that they will conclude that I’m a terrible mayor and I should be removed. I think they’ll conclude Chief Craig is a terrible chief and he should be removed, and I’ll think they’ll conclude that the Detroit Police Department are terrible officers and they should be defunded. I think you can pretty well predict, that will be the outcome,” said Mayor Mike Duggan.
‘Defund the police’: What it means and why activists are calling for it
Now that the public hearing is over, Tristan Taylor with Detroit Will Breathe explained what will happen next, “We keep marching. We keep moving. I think that after the Tribunal, we’ll take a set of votes. One of things we want to see is for city council to do their own separate investigation. I respect the right of the protesters tonight to express their views on recent events,” said Tristan Taylor with Detroit Will Breathe.
Police Chief James Craig released this statement:
In the emotional outpouring following the murder of George Floyd, however, the protesters continue to fail to acknowledge the serious danger the city faced in those first few nights. The organizers initiated those first marches without making any plans for controlling instigators of violence and without any plans for dispersing the crowd at the end of the march.
As a result, the Detroit Police Department (DPD) faced crowds who attacked officers with rocks, fireworks, and railroad spikes. They smashed windows of police vehicles and began breaking windows of buildings, threatening to bring the kind of violence and looting to Detroit that many other major American cities experienced.
That tragic outcome was avoided here because of the work of our officers and the active intervention of numerous Detroiters who personally stepped in to stop acts of destruction. Once our department saw that the evening protesters were no longer a danger to Detroit or our citizens, we stopped enforcing the curfew and have made no arrests of protesters in more than two weeks.
This Department takes every allegation of police misconduct seriously and, as has been the practice since I have been Chief, any officer who acted improperly will be disciplined. DPD and the Board of Police Commissioners are investigating each citizen complaint and are actively collecting video evidence from body cams, building security cameras, and personal phones for a complete review of each claim.
Across the country, the Detroit Police Department is getting credit for its professionalism in preserving the peace in our city without the kinds of tragic incidents seen in other communities. We are not perfect but every day we are committed to building trust between our department and the citizens we serve.
Police Chief James E. Craig
Detroit Police Department