Detroit Protest: Not That Silent!

August 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

August 14—About 500-600 people attended Detroit's National Moment of Silence for the murder of Michael Brown. This wasn't your typical gathering in Detroit—no one cautioning people to remain calm and let the system work or urging people to get out the vote. This gathering was organized by young people through social media; many of them part of the cultural scene. And this was reflected in who came out to it. The crowd was overwhelmingly young. While it was largely Black; there were significant numbers of white people in attendance. And they were angry!

The moment of silence quickly turned into a rally. The tone was set early on when the MC read off a long list of people who had been murdered by the police. Speaker after speaker denounced the murder of Mike Brown and the many others who have fallen victim to police violence. Rappers, spoken word artists, and singers performed pieces denouncing police murders and of people who, like Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride (a 19-year-old Black woman who was shot in the face by a white homeowner when she sought help after a car accident), were killed for the crime of being Black. A militant Black minister spoke angrily about Brown's murder, but then reminded people that this isn't the only thing we have to be angry about. He linked it with the poor schools, the decaying neighborhoods, and all the other horrors that confront Black people.

People's handmade signs gave a sense of their thinking. A young white woman brought a sign with row upon row of small photographs of people who had been murdered by the police over the last 50 years. The first picture was of Michael Brown, the last showed someone who was killed by the cops in 1967. Another woman carried a sign that said "How did protect and serve become terrorize and intimidate?" Another sign stated "We all bleed red, but whose blood is on the STREETS!?" Another person had made a sign with two hands up symbolizing Brown's attempt to give himself up with the words "We will not die slaves." Three friends carried signs that went together: "Eric Garner deserves justice." The next sign read "Mike Brown deserves justice," and the last sign said "We deserve justice." One young Black woman made a sign that said "Don't shoot! My only threat to you is my capacity to be GREAT."

People I talked to were beyond angry at this murder. Many said they felt like they needed to be out here because what happened to Mike Brown was so wrong and they needed to stand against it. One Black man in his early 30s said that he's got four children and he worries about all of them, but especially about his three-year-old son. He said that could be his son in a few years. Others spoke about how Mike Brown could have been anyone, anywhere. One Black man in his early 20s said he was at this gathering because Brown's murder was part of something big that was beginning to happen. He included the murder of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and many others as part of it. He said things are bad and they're going to get a lot worse if we don't stop it. Then he declared that there are two ways people can influence things: one is with lots of money and the other is with lots of people—we need lots of people in the street if we're going to stop this.

We spoke with two Black men who lived in Ferguson for many years. They said usually Black people there were docile, but not this time! They were so very proud of them. Then they said as bad as what was done to Michael Brown, it's nothing compared to what's happening in the Gaza. Now that's genocide!

But the rally didn't end with a moment of silence and a prayer as planned. An organization called By Any Means Necessary organized a people's speak out. People from the crowd stepped forward and spoke bitterness. Then the people took to the streets, marching through downtown Detroit. About 300 people, mainly Black youth, marched right past groups of cops and blocked traffic on the two main downtown streets. With hands raised in the air and militant chants of "Hands Up; Don't Shoot," angry people marched for over an hour. In an act of defiance, people marched through Greektown, a showcase entertainment area in downtown that is filled with restaurants and bars and is the home to one of the city's fancy Casinos. This area is heavily patrolled by the cops and attracts affluent people from the suburbs. As the crowd marched by with chants ringing through the air, patrons stepped out of the restaurants and bars to check out the scene. Their reactions were varied, some looked on at this large, angry crowd of Black people with fear and disgust, many videotaped the march, and some white suburbanites grinned from ear to ear and threw their fists in the air in support. At times there were cacophonies of honking horns as people in cars honked and raised their fists out their window in support.

From there we marched to the street where the county sheriff’s office and county jail is on one side and the juvenile detention center is on the other. Police gathered at the front door and watched the march go by, but didn't come out. As the chants of "Hands Up; Don't Shoot" echoed off the walls, one person kept excitedly shouting to the marchers, "They can hear you inside." This only encouraged the marchers to increase the volume of their chants.

On August 14 people had a sense of making history. We saw the beginnings of something new and powerful in Detroit.


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