Protesters march in Troy, defy curfews in Detroit, Grand Rapids

Detroit — Protests continued Monday in Metro Detroit and elsewhere in Michigan, with demonstrators in downtown Detroit, Grand Rapids and Troy calling for justice after the death of George Floyd during a police incident last week in Minneapolis.

A 10-mile long march attended by several hundred demonstrators stretched from downtown Detroit to the city's southwest section, marking the fourth straight day of protests in Michigan's largest city.

A protester shouts and raises his hands in front of the Michigan National Guard in downtown Grand Rapids on Monday.

In Grand Rapids, protesters faced off against National Guard troops, Michigan State Police and city officers, who chased and arrested participants who violated the city's 7 p.m. curfew. Detroit marchers also broke Mayor Mike Duggan's 8 p.m. curfew but as darkness fell, police had apparently taken no action to force participants off the streets or make arrests, and participants dispersed peacefully.

Michigan State Police in riot gear form a line behind the Michigan National Guard on Monday in downtown Grand Rapids.

In Lansing, where a Sunday demonstration protesting police brutality resulted in thousands of dollars in damage to private and public property, Mayor Andy Schor declared a curfew about 9 p.m. Monday, saying it would last until 5 a.m. Tuesday.

In a tweet Monday evening, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expressed support for the marchers' cause but called for protesters to go home as night fell. 

"To those who have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the structural inequities Black Americans face every day - I’m with you," the governor wrote. "Tonight, I urge you to stay home and stay safe. Tomorrow, find a peaceful protest to join and make your voice heard."

The Detroit march ended with some participants encouraging others to disperse as police formed a blockade to downtown, telling protesters over a loudspeaker they were in violation of the curfew and needed to leave.  

Willie Burton, a member of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, called Monday’s protest “peaceful and civil” and criticized the actions of some officers during previous demonstrations.

“It’s disturbing when you are woken up out of your sleep and you heard that a number of arrests were made,” he said. “It’s alarming and disturbing to hear that a curfew was put in place to slam the door on democracy. We still have a lot of work to do here in the city of Detroit when it comes to policies and regulations."

The organizers of the Detroit protest assembled next to the parking lot of Detroit’s Public Safety headquarters building. On past nights, groups convened their demonstrations in the lot and along the grass out in front of the police building. But on Monday, the perimeter was fenced off and the parking lot gates were shuttered.

Police use bicycles to move back protesters back after the curfew Monday in downtown Grand Rapids.

Some walked up in groups, carrying American flags or signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “Silence is Violence.” Others rode up on bicycles and with leashed dogs. Organizers took turns speaking, noting they would head toward Vernor in southwest Detroit and already have planned another gathering and march for Tuesday.

Protesters march down Michigan Avenue on Monday, June 1, 2020.

Maura Rosner of Ferndale joined the group Monday after noting she’d been among a group detained a couple of days earlier and cited for disorderly conduct. She contends she was arrested around 7 p.m. Saturday while standing with the crowd and holding a sign. She had to post a $100 bond to get out of jail.

Rosner, who works at a coffee shop in Detroit, spent three of the last four days to advocate for justice in Floyd’s death and considers herself a peaceful protester.

“I’m not here to match injustice with injustice,” she said. “That’s not why we’re here.”

Rosner, 36, said she’s hopeful that the protesting won’t escalate to the level it has elsewhere in Michigan and the country.

“Most people are happy with the renewal here and don’t want to destroy or damage any of it,” she said. “That’s the majority of people.”

Lori Harris said she’s been marching to bring awareness to the systematic inequities placed on African Americans since slavery.

“Every time something happens people run down in that state that it happened in and then it dies down and then we get used to it being our normal,” said Harris, 56, an ex-pat who's staying with family in Detroit, where she grew up. “There needs to be a new normal.”

Harris said there’s been an element turning out for the protests for the wrong reasons.

Hundreds march peacefully with a police escort Monday in Troy.

“You always welcome the support of everyone. The issue with getting support from white Americans is you can’t see what’s in their heart,” she said. “You have those who truly want to support and you have those who are there trying to further their agenda and causing chaos.”

Ali Beydoun, owner of Sicily’s Pizzeria on Vernor Highway in southwest Detroit, handed out beverages to protesters as they walked past his business. “This is the least we can do to be a part of this movement," he said. "There’s nothing like the feeling of giving, especially being a part of something like this.”

In Troy, protesters headed down Coolidge Highway near the shopping center in the early evening, chanting, "No justice, no peace! No racist police!"

As the march proceeded with police looking on, participants made their way down Big Beaver, shouting, “Black lives matter!” and “What’s his name? George Floyd!”

At the end of the Troy march, about 100 demonstrators sat in the street along Coolidge and asked officers to take a knee. Three did.

Among them was Troy Police Officer John Julian.

“We all have families,” Julian said. “We all want the same thing. A better life and safety in our own community. Like I asked them, since they’ve been in Troy have they been mistreated by us? The answer is no. Because we respect them and support their cause, peacefully and safely.”

Troy police officers kneel with demonstrators on Coolidge Highway at the end of a march on Monday.

Julian said the moment was emotional.

“On both sides, there was reluctance because we don’t know how they’re doing to accept us as well as they don’t know how we’re going to accept them,” he said. “But that shows solidarity when we get down and take a knee.”

Several rallies in Detroit have been organized by the national civil rights and immigrant rights organization By Any Means Necessary or BAMN.

“We are marching and fighting for justice for George Floyd and to remove Donald Trump by any means necessary,” said Kate Stenvig, national organizer for the organization, which wants to see all officers involved with the death of Floyd in prison.

Police have arrested and prosecutors have charged Derek Chauvin, the then-officer seen on camera with his knee on Floyd's neck during the arrest, but protests have expanded since then. 

Sierra Scott of Southfield and hundreds peacefully march in protest down the east side of W.Big Beaver in Troy on Monday.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig made national headlines by calling Floyd's death a "murder."

City police made more than 100 arrests overnight Sunday into Monday morning as the city confronted its third straight night of large-scale protests. That led some downtown businesses to plan for possible property damage Monday. 

Crews from Detroit-based Allied Building Service Co. boarded up windows in front of the Nike and Madewell stores and a crew from Livonia-based OnSite Solutions was boarding up windows around the H&M store.

Most of the people arrested at Sunday's protest were from Metro Detroit communities outside the city, said Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood, head of media relations for the department.

Stenvig said it’s a “police storyline,” intended to create a divide, that protesters are coming from outside the city.

“The majority of people like us here are from Detroit but we are absolutely very happy that people from all over Michigan have come to Detroit to join these protests,” she said. “We have not seen mobilizations like this ... I haven’t in my lifetime. This is a breath of fresh air for millions of people around the world who are sick of racist treatment.”

Twitter: @bykaleahall