Protester dragged out of City Hall during Detroit tax protest

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — A protest that disrupted downtown's Coleman A. Young Municipal Center on Friday led to its leader being dragged out by police while members chanted "cut the damn check," demanding relief for Detroiters who feel overtaxed.

Protesters, organized by the activist group Call 'Em-Out, called for a moratorium on foreclosed occupied homes and water shutoffs.

Agnes Hitchcock, 74, of Detroit, the leader of "Call 'Em-Out" group is escorted out of the Detroit Finance Department-Income office by Detroit police during a protest inside City Hall.

“Whatever Duggan’s plan is if it does not include giving the people their houses back that they lost for not paying taxes they didn’t owe, his plan is short,” said Agnes Hitchcock, 74, of Detroit.

“If it does not include wiping out those harsh tax agreement, giving me and the people who paid those taxes a credit, his plan is nothing. You don’t take people’s money, you don’t take people’s houses ... 

“We don’t care where the money went. No is unacceptable.”

Friday's protest started outside on Larned Street before around 70 people marched inside with signs chanting. Their goal was to make it inside to swarm the tax and Mayor Mike Duggan's office.

Many were delayed entry into the building by a slow screening process, clustering in the lobby backing up city hall workers. Hitchock made it through before being carried out of the Detroit Finance Department-Income office by Detroit police.

The group "Call' Em-Out" protests the City of Detroit overtaxation on the first floor inside city hall.

Police did not respond for comment on the disruption at City Hall.

This protest comes after The Detroit News published an investigation in January that found City Hall overtaxed homeowners by at least $600 million between 2010 and 2016 after officials failed to accurately bring down property values in the years following the recession.

Duggan has acknowledged past overassessment but said he cleaned up the practice and lowered values after he took office in 2014. The mayor said he can't repay homeowners because current law doesn't allow it and the city can't afford it.

Renla Session, 64, of Detroit joins protesters demanding restitution for residents who were overtaxed and lost their homes to foreclosure.

But he said he and the city's law department are working with the City Council on possible ways to compensate some homeowners who were overtaxed.  

Resident Cheryl Major held a sign covered in fake money reading “Make us whole.” Major said she has been overtaxed, but families she serves have suffered far worse. 

“Many of our families have been impacted and lost their homes because of overtaxing,” said Major, founder of Children Spa For Children with Disabilities. “Whatever time it was, doesn’t matter at this point. They should have known it was happening and we need to make it come back. 

State Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, speaking to Call 'Em-Out group leader Agnes Hitchcock while people protest outside city hall Friday morning.

"We need to come up with another plan to replace it. Have a spend down, a credit, so when that money is up, they get their credit and when it’s up, you start taxing them again.”

Twitter: @SarahRahal_