Judge declines to lift restraining order preventing Detroit police from assaulting peaceful protesters


Protesters march in Detroit in early June. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • Protesters march in Detroit in early June.

A federal judge has denied the city of Detroit’s request to lift a temporary restraining order that restricts police from using batons, shields, tear gas, rubber bullets, chokeholds, and other tactics against peaceful protesters, legal observers, and medical personnel.

U.S. District Court Judge Laurie J. Michelson, who is presiding over a lawsuit filed by the protest group Detroit Will Breathe, issued the restraining order on Sept. 4.

The city urged Michelson to modify the order, insisting without evidence that it had emboldened protesters to use violence. The judge responded that no violence has occurred since the order was imposed and that police still have “a variety of lawful tools when faced with protesters who pose a physical threat or have broken the law.”

“Protesters have an interest in voicing their beliefs and seeking reform,” the judge wrote. “The police have an interest in maintaining the peace and enforcing the laws. These interests can co-exist.”

Even Detroit police Chief James Craig admitted the order would have no impact on the department’s ability to respond to protests, Michelson pointed out.

“The judge’s order is no different than what we’ve always done,” Chief said in a statement shortly after the order was imposed.

In the Aug. 31 lawsuit filed against the city of Detroit and police department, protesters allege officers used excessive force to break up peaceful demonstrations against police brutality. According to the suit, police violated protesters’ constitutional rights by responding to peaceful demonstrations with “beatings, tear gas, pepper spray, and mass arrests.”

Some of the protesters have been hospitalized with serious injuries.

In July, the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office charged a Detroit corporal with three counts of felonious assault for allegedly firing rubber pellets at three photojournalists.

City officials countered that police have used reasonable force when protesters refused to disperse. Detroit’s top attorney Lawrence Garcia also said the city plans to file its own lawsuit against protesters “to stop further violations of law and to hopefully reduce the assaults on police officers.”

City officials declined to comment on the judge’s decision to keep the restraining order intact.

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.