From the September-October 2020 issue of News & Letters
Detroit—On July 13 a young man was killed in a west side Detroit neighborhood in an incident believed to be a police shooting of an unarmed Black man. A crowd of angry neighbors confronted police in riot gear and riot mentality; some threw rocks and bottles at them; at least one was injured. Police threw tear gas canisters just as a local news crew began filming, but the protesters had large fans and blew and threw the gas back at the police. The crowd was swelling with young people, the white participants were easily identified as being from outside the neighborhood.
Then a line of police marched slowly down the street to 6 Mile Rd., a major thoroughfare. The crowd were backed onto 6 Mile Rd., and then the police simply stood. Next the crowd headed for the 12th precinct, with the police nowhere in sight. Traffic and passers-by honked and waved in support. At the precinct, police prevented entry but were otherwise quiet. Some protest leaders seemed to be encouraging the crowd to back off.
Later that evening Chief James Craig went on TV to play body-cam and dash-cam videos of the shooting. Most viewers clearly saw the young man pull his gun and fire on police officers arresting another man, thus quelling the rumor of unjustified police violence—this time.
BRUTALITY AND RESTRAINT ARE REAL
Police brutality and police restraint in the same incident. Both are real. Here is how my friend T. reflected on it, giving meaning to “Defund the Police”:
“The hood needs conflict resolution and mediators. Eight folks shot on San Juan. Three dead on the 4th of July. Then what? No healers, no mediators, no support, just a hot-ass block. So two babies walking down the same street that two dudes was just sprawled out on…of course they packing. Then in his 18-year-old mind, cops pull him over, he know his boy hot, he decide to go out in a blaze like the rappers and the movies do. Cause he got to be hard. But there was a point in all this where conflict resolution was needed. By some OGs [Original Gangstas]. Eighteen and dumb and in a f—ked-up situation that too many of our babies be in too much. This the type of healing the hood need. Now his little brother watch this, anger boiling, who is there to help him deal with this trauma. It’s too much. But he will probably just go to school next year like ain’t shit happen and blow up one day and not know why. How do we get out these cycles? Internalized oppression and trauma is just as fucking serious as white supremacy and police brutality. But when do it stop?”
Lessons reinforced: Detroit, don’t let your guard down, on COVID-19 or police accountability. Black Lives Matter/Power to the People!
—Susan Van Gelder