Detroit's curfew lifted after more than a week of peaceful protests


Detroit police in riot gear on May 31. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • Detroit police in riot gear on May 31.

Detroit’s weeklong curfew ended Monday, and Mayor Mike Duggan said he is not renewing it because protests have been peaceful.

“We have elements who brought in rocks, railroad spikes, and fireworks, using them to assault police,” Duggan said at a news conference Monday. “We know full well they had no stake in the city when it was over. We haven’t seen those folks in five or six days, so we’re feeling confident now that what we have are protests going on by people from this community who care about this community.”

Since the demonstrations began May 29, police have arrested 424 protesters, about a third of whom live in Detroit. Most of the rest are suburbanites, police Chief James Craig said.

Police have made very few, if any, arrests since cops in riot gear tackled peaceful protesters on Gratiot on Tuesday, bound their hands with zip ties, and held them in the basement of the tax-funded Little Caesars Arena. Several reporters and legal observers also were tackled and briefly detained.

The last reported instance of violence among protesters was May 31, when several demonstrators allegedly threw water bottles and fireworks at police in downtown Detroit.

Duggan continued to peddle the narrative that protesters planned to riot, despite any substantive evidence to back up the claim, with the exception of a few provocateurs who were caught.

“It was a very frightening couple of nights for the city of Detroit,” Duggan said. “We’ve heard story after story of Detroiters intervening on would-be looters.”

Most of the violence was instigated by police, who fired rubber bullets, tear gas, and flash bang grenades at peaceful protesters. A 24-year-old woman says Detroit police struck her with a rubber bullet last week, causing a skull-splitting brain injury.

Duggan and Craig defended the use of rubber bullets.

"The response is certainly preferable to what the response used to be, which was police officers having to make a choice of using much more danger ammunition," Duggan said.

It should be noted that many of the rubber bullets were fired at the backs of protesters as they fled.

Craig defended his officers without addressing the complaints filed against police.

“Detroit police officers truly exemplified what defines policing excellence, so I’m deeply humbled and proud,” Craig said.

Duggan and Craig plan to meet with protest organizers at a private location on Tuesday. Protesters wanted to hold the meeting in public, but Duggan declined, saying, “Everything I have ever gotten done in my life is because people sat in the room together.”

Duggan said the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police has shed light on systemic racism that needs to be addressed.

“As George Floyd’s final funeral proceedings go on, I think this country has changed,” Duggan said. “While we saw race discrimination in its most brutal form in his murder, the racial inequality is far broader. We saw it in COVID-19, when African Americans were dying at rates two or three times that of caucasians. We see it in the unemployment rates. The Black unemployment rate is twice the white unemployment rate. The Black poverty rate is twice the white poverty rate, and as the economy has turned down, it has hit the Black community far more severely then the white community.”

Duggan added, “This is a conversation that I’m not sure would have gotten the full attention of much of white America two weeks ago, but I think now there is a growing awakening that there is a problem we have to address.”

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