On Feb. 16, the following statement was emailed to each member of the Detroit City Council.
By Moratorium NOW! Coalition
Mayor Mike Duggan and the City Council have once again failed to support the people of Detroit by approving $200,000 to fund a counter-lawsuit against Detroit Will Breathe, Black Lives Matter movement protesters, in a 5-4 vote.
While all of the world is watching and recognizing the Black Lives Matter movement for the important work it is doing, the City, through this counterclaim, is desperately attempting to suppress and intimidate the courageous local movement by Detroit Will Breathe. DWB stands up against racism and police brutality and is in strong solidarity with people around the US and the world, in defense of Black lives. The Black Lives Matter movement has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.
Black Lives Matter, originating in the US, was nominated by the Norwegian MP Petter Eide. Eide was quoted in a recent Guardian article as saying “they [BLM] have been able to mobilize people from all groups of society, not just African-Americans, not just oppressed people, it has been a broad movement, in a way which has been different from their predecessors.” Black Lives Matter is indeed a broad movement, sweeping across the world, contagiously gathering supporters who raise their voices and cry, “Say her name!” Peacefully protesting while being met with the brutal hand of the State, Black Lives Matter IS a nonviolent movement. “Of course there have been incidents, but most of them have been caused by the activities of either the police or counter-protestors.”
Data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project in Sept 2020 states: “In more than 93% of all demonstrations connected to the movement, demonstrators have not engaged in violence or destructive activity.” In Eide’s nomination letter, he says giving the Peace Prize to “Black Lives Matter as the strongest global force against racial injustice, will send a powerful message that peace is founded on equality, solidarity and human rights, and that all countries must respect those basic principles.” (quotes from The Guardian 1/29/21; ACLED statement.)
Meanwhile, Detroit’s elected officials are condemning protesters for being non-Detroiters. Mayor Duggan, Council President Brenda Jones, Council Member Roy McCalister, and Police Chief Craig are all on record saying that the majority of the protesters were not from Detroit, as if that’s a problem.
Another reason this approval to use an additional $200,000 to fight Detroit Will Breathe is disturbing is because of the lies coming from Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia.
Garcia states, “My office has to defend the City in the federal court case that involved Detroit Will Breathe. And that is going to be an expense that requires funding no matter where we stand with respect to counterclaims.” The City of Detroit Law Department has a budget of $15.6 M for fiscal year 2021 and “has dozens of attorneys specialized in various areas who defend all legal actions against the City…” (Garcia quote, NPR 1/26/21; City information from the City website)
Garcia has the resources to defend the City without additional funds for special attorneys. The real question is why the counterclaim and the need for additional funds? Mayor Duggan and Chief Craig are responding like spoiled children because a federal judge placed a temporary restraining order against the Detroit Police Department for uses of excessive force. Duggan and Craig are mad because the protesters are organized, un-apologetic and succeeding, for now, in stopping the Detroit Police from their vicious violence against them. Our elected officials are retaliating with our tax money. The counterclaim by the City asks the court to issue judgments declaring that the protesters engaged in conspiracy and “defamed” the mayor and police, and to award the City damages. Duggan and Craig are embarrassed and hoping to bend the courts with their influence and power. To date, the City has not provided any evidence to support their claim.
On January 26, 2021, five council members voted to provide funds for this retaliation against protesters. Brenda Jones, the President of City Council, said she would vote her conscience with a statement. As of this writing, we have not seen her statement of conscience. The President of City Council did write a statement on June 30, 2020 addressing a proposed resolution to drop arrest charges against protesters, in part saying… “It would be improper for me to interfere with proceedings in the legal world. It would also be improper for me to favor one group of citizens over Detroiters.” (Jones quote from City website)
Roy McCalister voted to approve the $200,000 funding for the City’s counterclaim with a baseless statement that it “will help illuminate incidents during the protests when DPD officers were violently attacked, private property was destroyed, and protesters engaged in tactics meant to incite violence…” We know he’s wrong. From the hundreds of videos online of the protests this summer, and from everything we’ve seen on the ground, there’s no evidence of violence by the protesters. Additionally, there is no evidence or allegations, in any of the arrest cases, that protesters used or incited violence or property destruction. The City’s bogus counterclaim will enrich wealthy corporate law firms at the expense of Detroit tax payers. (McCalister quote from his Twitter)
Janee Ayers: yes vote with no statement. Scott Benson: yes vote, no statement. Andre Spivey yes vote, no statement.
“The City’s counterclaim is one of many examples of a national trend by units of government and corporations to intimidate grassroots activists from suing them by seeking to tie up their time and waste their financial resources with frivolous counter-lawsuits,” said John Royal, president of the National Lawyers Guild Detroit and Michigan Chapter, in a recent statement. “The City of Detroit should not use this repressive tactic against the progressive youth of southeast Michigan who are seeking redress for legitimate grievances against the DPD.”
DPD has been sued for excessive force and wrongful death many times. In 2019, the City paid $12.4 million in lawsuits due to DPD excessive force. Last year, Kenneth Reed, Director of Detroit Coalition against Police Brutality, had this to say on DPD. “It just shows that they are stuck in the 20th century in terms of law enforcement. It takes you almost back to the 1967 rebellion and prior to that with the policing model. That’s not what is needed.” DPD has a long history of police brutality and excessive force. (Reed quote, Detroit News 6/9/2020 )
We are disgusted at the City’s counterclaim and the amount of money being poured into it – money that could be used for reparations, housing, water, and education for the people of Detroit. We have a real problem with our elected representatives. This is an election year. If we want to see changes, we need to elect a new Mayor and new Council members who will address the people’s true needs. Just like we got out and voted in the Presidential election, we need to participate in the selection of Detroit candidates who will represent our interests. Then vote and hold them accountable.
Retired City of Detroit Worker, Organizer with Moratorium Now Coalition
Organizer with Moratorium Now Coalition