Coalition blasts Trump action in Detroit, calls for police chief to resign

    Detroit police | Susan J. Demas

    The Coalition for Police Transparency and Accountability on Tuesday rejected the President Trump administration’s Operation Legend initiative, called for the Detroit Police Department to “end violence” against Black Lives Matter protesters and urged Detroit Police Chief James Craig to resign.  

    “The level of violence and the attacks on observers and demonstrators repeats a pattern in other cities where the Trump administration has been involved. Beating, lacerating and pepper spraying nonviolent protesters is never acceptable,” according to the 15-member coalition that includes the ACLU of Michigan, Detroit Council of Elders, National Lawyers Guild, Detroit Justice Center and Moratorium Now. 

    The coalition added that in a mass meeting following the Aug. 22 action, participants reported “Detroit Police charged the crowd with batons and shields, not to arrest people engaging in alleged unlawful behavior, but rather to fight and attack unarmed people.”

    Detroit group to protest against Trump police plan on Friday

    In late July, Matthew Schneider, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Michigan, announced details of a plan to send federal agents to Detroit. The city of Detroit received 44 Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agents and 12 Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. Some will have permanent jobs; others will be temporarily assigned.

    The organization reacted to the Aug. 22 confrontation between protesters and police in Detroit, where 44 people were arrested. 

    “I am not going to let any group set up a Seattle zone of lawlessness here in the city of Detroit,” Craig said during a news conference on Aug. 24. “That is non-negotiable.”

    “We believe this brutal, unacceptable increase in police violence and attacks stems from the Trump administration’s influence through [U.S.] Attorney General [William] Barr who has been working closely with James Craig,” the group said. “It has increased the urgency of our call for Craig to step down and for Detroit Police to end the attacks on unarmed people exercising their First Amendment rights.”

    Anti-police brutality group files federal suit against city of Detroit 

    The announcement comes one day after the anti-police brutality group Detroit Will Breathe filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Detroit. 

    “The Detroit Police Department must end its liaison with the most openly racist U.S. president in living memory,” the coalition statement read. “We demand the immediate end of police violence against protestors and observers. We demand the immediate resignation of Police Chief James Craig.”

    In a joint statement issued on July 29, Craig and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan supported Operation Legend.

    “So long as those staff are used in the continuing effort to enforce federal laws on illegal gun trafficking and gang violence, DPD will continue its strong partnership with those agencies,” they said

    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.