Hundreds attend Black Lives Matter rally in Detroit

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Several hundred people packed Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit on Friday night, simultaneously shouting beneath the overcast sky: “Black lives matter!”

It was a rallying cry for the activists, performance artists, community residents and others who filled the massive demonstration and march to decry the fatal police shootings this week of African-American men in Louisiana and Minnesota. Those deaths have sparked outrage and protests nationwide.

The Detroit event was touted on social media as a “peaceful protest” associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. It was announced online hours before Thursday night’s sniper attack that left five Dallas officers dead.

Dallas sniper suspect a loner, followed black militants

Slain Dallas cop from Wayne Co. was ‘all about serving’

Dallas suspect amassed personal arsenal at home

Many who spoke at the protest, including City Councilwoman Mary Sheffield, demanded that the recent slayings of the African-American men represent a flashpoint for significant change.

“Protesting is good, but policy is just as important,” Sheffield said to applause. “We’ve got to change all of the systematic racism.”

Beginning at 8 p.m., the gathering stayed strong for several hours. Participants marched down Woodward to Hart Plaza before turning around and marching back up the thoroughfare then east toward Greektown. The stream blocked traffic downtown, though some cars honked horns in support.

Michele Hayes joined the throng pushing a stroller. “It's been an injustice and we're tired. We're fed up,” she said while steering past traffic. “I've got two sons. I can't sit back and let this go.”

Black Lives Matter protests continue, despite criticism

Police escorted the many marchers, some of whom waved American flags and chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot” or “We gonna be alright.” Others raised fists and hoisted signs with messages such as “Live in peace” and “Stop the killings of innocent people.”

“There are too many babies dying out here,” Michael Allen, of Detroit, shouted into a megaphone while standing amid the crowd.

Detroit Police on high alert after Dallas attack

Dallas police shooting: The latest

The Minnesota and Baton Rouge shootings pushed many people from across the region to attend — including Stacy Mitsuboshi, a Muslim from Eastpointe. “There have been a lot of people in the Muslim community who want to show their support and cry with the people throughout the nation,” she said.

Event organizer Leslie Williams said the violence spurred her to act.

“I was angry,” she said, adding that local activists intend to develop an action plan based on solutions the march attendees suggested.

Many at Friday night’s rally in downtown Detroit demanded the recent slayings stand as a flashpoint for significant change.

Local officials and leaders have also condemned the bloodshed.

“In the face of the violence of these days, we turn to the Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace,” Detroit Catholic Archbishop Allen Vigneron said in a statement Friday. “Let us implore his mercy for the healing of our wounds and the triumph of peace and justice.”

The Dearborn-based American Human Rights Council offered condolences to the families of the victims but also called for peace and understanding.

“The unnecessary excessive use of force practiced by certain police officers should not be seen, taken or treated as institutionalized police policies. It is however, a deep rooted challenge that must be addressed openly and effectively,” the statement read.

The Associated Press contributed.