Remember back on May 31, 2008, when Detroit police officers stormed into the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit and carried out the infamous "CAID raid," in which 130 Funk Night aficionados were smacked with loitering citations and 40 vehicles were impounded — an event our own Jack Lessenberry likened to a "fascist nightmare?"
On Sunday's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
, the ugly incident was revisited in a segment about civil forfeiture
, or the police's unchecked ability to seize stuff they suspect is involved in crime. Oliver used the case at the CAID as an absurd example of civil forfeiture at play.
“You can see the police burst in and arrest people with the disco lights still swirling, in the single funkiest shakedown in human history,” Oliver jokes after showing security camera footage of the raid.
“They each had to pay $900 to get their cars out of the impound, with the exception of the one person whose car was actually stolen from the lots to which it had been towed," he continues. "Which seems like the sort of thing the police should be investigating — if they weren’t busy raiding art gallery funk nights.”
In Aug. 2008, the city of Detroit agreed to drop all charges (though people still had to pay to get their cars back). The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in in Feb. 2010, and in Dec. 2012, a federal judge ruled the raid unconstitutional.
"In a free country, the police may not conduct commando-style raids on innocent people and seize their property without justification," said Dan Korobkin
, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. "We hope this case will put a stop to the Motor City shakedowns we've seen across the city — the practice of arresting innocent people, seizing their cars, and refusing to return them unless they pay a $900 ransom."
Nevertheless, police crackdowns on seemingly harmless gatherings continues. This summer city officials hassled the blues venue John's Carpet House
, and police raids on Comet Bar, White Star Bar, and North End Studios
occurred in late August as well.
Revisit the CAID raid at 7:30 mark in the clip below, or watch it here