Detroit group to protest against Trump police plan on Friday

For 69th day, Detroit Will Breathe demonstrated in the Motor City and vowed to have another protest on Friday in downtown Detroit.

Detroit Will Breathe, the progressive anti-police brutality group, on Wednesday continued to push back against President Donald Trump’s recent decision to send federal agents to Detroit to help reduce firearm violence.

During a rally and march — its 69th since late May — the group announced that it will hold a demonstration on Friday evening, beginning at 7 p.m. in downtown Detroit at the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building.

Jae Bass, one of the group’s lead organizers, blasted Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s and Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s decision to welcome the Feds under certain conditions.

“It’s time to get some accountability for what’s going in Detroit,” Bass, a 24-year-old African American, said about the Trump administration plan known as “Operation Legend,” which supposedly aims to stop crime in cities across the country. 

About 100 Detroit Will Breathe demonstrators rallied and marched from the Rosa Parks Federal Building just east of downtown Detroit on Aug. 5.

City police and the protesters, who have largely been white and young, at times have had standoffs that have resulted in the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and arrests in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. In June, the group issued a list of demands. They included efforts to “demilitarize the police” and calls for Duggan and Craig to resign from public office.

Duggan, who is white, and Craig, who is Black, have stated that they do not welcome federal agents if they were to carry out the type of enforcement that Portland, Ore., which was part of a separate action. Duggan, however, applauded federal assistance in addressing gun violence in the Motor City.

“So long as those staff are used in the continuing effort to enforce federal laws on illegal gun trafficking and gang violence, [Detroit Police Department] will continue its strong partnership with those agencies,” Duggan and Craig said in a joint statement.

“We believe there is no lawful basis for Homeland Security intervention in the Detroit protests today, or for any increased presence of Homeland Security agents in our community. … We have to address the unacceptable level of gun violence in Detroit through greater efforts by federal, state, county, DPD, and community partners all working together.”

Last week, Matthew Schneider, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Michigan, announced details of a plan to send federal agents to Detroit.

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“Let me be clear: there are no federal troops coming to Detroit or Michigan to interfere with protesters,” said Schneider, a Trump appointee.

The city of Detroit is expected to receive assistance from 44 Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agents and 12 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents. Some will have permanent jobs; others will be temporarily assigned.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s No. 2 at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday defended federal law enforcement officers’ intervention in anti-police brutality protests in Portland and other cities this summer.

Characterizing some of the protests as “mob rule,” Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told lawmakers that federal agents could exert force in other cities if violent protests break out.

“DHS will not back away from our responsibilities to protect federal property, the people using those properties, and our brave law enforcement officers,” Cuccinelli said at a U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.