Detroit police were aware for at least a week that armed neo-Nazis planned to "disrupt" a Pride festival downtown over the weekend and "incite violence" worse than what went down in Charlottesville, Va.
Despite the potential for bloodshed, the Detroit Police Department failed to warn the public or City Council that a hate group was targeting the LGBTQ+ community.
"A week or so ago, we received intelligence information that a hate group was going to come and disrupt the festival and that the individuals would be armed," Police Chief James Craig told City Council on Tuesday. "They didn’t just want to do what they did in Charlottesville; they wanted an enhanced version of Charlottesville."
The neo-Nazis, who are members of the National Socialist Movement, marched with riot shields and at least two rifles and three handguns. Their plan, according to Craig, was to "taunt and incite festival-goers" at Motor City Pride.
"I wasn't aware of it until I saw it blasted on social media," Councilman Andre Spivey told Craig.
The chief argued that notifying the public could have escalated the risks of violence. He added, "We don't want to create unnecessary fear."
Festival-goer Shannon Burke said she would not have risked going downtown had she known about the neo-Nazis' plans to target Motor City Pride.
"It's unfathomable to me that the city didn't bother warning the public," she told Metro Times
. "Would the police warn us of a potential terrorist attack? This is no different. I'm appalled."
Craig applauded his officers' handling of the march and fired back at critics who claimed police were "escorting" neo-Nazis. The chief explained that the officers created a "roving buffer" by surrounding the marching neo-Nazis and preventing counterprotesters from getting too close.
"My first concern was for the safety of everyone," Craig said. "No one was hurt. Our strategy worked."
Asked whether the chief notified Mayor Mike Duggan about the neo-Nazis before the march, his office responded that the mayor has faith in the chief to make the right decisions.
"The mayor trusts the chief and the homeland security team to evaluate threat intelligence they receive for all major events, and for DPD to respond with the appropriate level of presence to keep peace and order," Duggan's spokesman John Roach told Metro Times
. "Given that no violence occurred at the Pride event, and no one was injured, shows that DPD assessed and managed the situation expertly."
Also during Tuesday's meeting, councilmembers dispelled rumors that they approved a permit for the neo-Nazis to march.
"I don't think anyone at this table would have approved them coming," Councilman Roy McCalister Jr. said.
Some members of the public fired back at the chief for claiming for a second day that counterprotesters, many of whom were African-American, hurled racist epithets at Black officers. Craig also said "both sides were wrong" and insisted Antifa, an anti-fascist group, was looking to cause trouble.
"None of that is true," counterprotester Meeko Williams told the Metro Times
. "We are social justice warriors, not Antifa."
Williams said counterprotesters "were there to protect the festival-goers" and only told Black police officers that the "white Nazis will kill you too."
During the council meeting, Williams shouted, "Fuck Nazis! Fuck the KKK! No racist USA."
Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.