Detroit City Council Votes To Sue Black Lives Matter Protesters

Detroit’s City Council voted today to authorize $200,000 in public funding to sue Black Lives Matter protesters after the protesters sued the city for police brutality in 2020. In response to that lawsuit by Detroit Will Breathe, a judge issued a temporary injunction banning the Detroit Police from using certain tactics in suppressing protests. The 5-4 vote came on the heels of a string of dismissals of hundreds of tickets and charges against protesters that the city had sought, and represented a split in city council between a more progressive wing of council and the generally more pro-corporate wing of council, which included the yea votes of Council President and failed Congressional candidate Brenda Jones, Councilmembers Scott Benson, Janee Ayers, André Spivey, and Roy McCalister, Jr.

Councilmember Raquel Castañeda-Lopez, representing parts of downtown and Southwest Detroit, has been at times a strong critic of the Duggan Administration for its cozy relationship with billionaire developers. Mary Sheffield has been an advocate for justice and accountability, often finding herself siding against an administration that admitted to overtaxing residents– but dragged its feet in addressing the issue. And Councilmember Gabe Leland was convicted last year of bribery charges. (The amount of the bribery in question was, incidentally, less than 10% of the legal tab the city is going to rack up for suing a nonviolent protest movement).

In contrast to many cities that saw widespread looting, destruction, and vandalism in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd last spring, Detroit’s Black Lives Matter protest movement has been largely peaceful. Observers and journalists have, however, documented extensive violence and brutality from police officers in response. In addition to the brutality lawsuit filed by Detroit Will Breathe last year a number of brutality lawsuits are still pending from violence against protesters and legal observers.

Detroit’s City Council can be contacted here. Detroit Will Breathe can be found on Facebook.

Detroit riot police assemble in June in front of a mine-resistant vehicle near police headquarters, a frequent destination for a series of marches kicked off by Detroit Will Breathe, the city’s de facto Black LIves Matter chapter.

Nat M. Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP, MBA, is a city planner and energy professional based in Detroit, where he writes about infrastructure, sustainability, tech, and more. A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he attended Grinnell College in Iowa, the Kogod School of Business at American University, the POCACITO transatlantic program, the SISE program at the University of Illinois Chicago, and he is also a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow. He enjoys long walks through historic, disinvested Rust Belt neighborhoods at sunset. (Nat's views and opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer).

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