Duggan praises Detroiters for stemming violence, warns 'we're going to remain at risk'
Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan reflected Tuesday on a peaceful 10-mile march in the city's streets the night before as proof "we can do this without tearing down our city."
The mayor said the four-hour march through southwest Detroit went off without a stone being thrown or canisters of tear gas being shot, and only a few dozen citations being issued.
"We had a remarkable march to end systemic racism in our criminal justice system and we did it with no violence," Duggan said during a news briefing alongside Detroit's police chief.
Still, despite the success of community leaders and young people who convinced crowd goers to disperse after the city's 8 p.m. curfew elapsed, Duggan warned, "We're going to remain at risk every single day."
There are groups coordinating violent protests nationally and Detroit, he said, also has been a target. The mayor said "we don't know who they are" but they are "very much on the ground, they are very much trying to instigate."
Duggan's comments come as the city prepared for its fifth straight night of protests following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in Minnesota. A white police officer, who was filmed kneeling for eight minutes on the neck of Floyd, who was black, has been arrested and charged in his death.
Monday night was the calmest so far in Detroit, with the volume of arrests dropped considerably — from 110 Sunday to 40 — and police did not resort to deploying tear gas or rubber bullets to disperse protesters who, with urging from members of the crowd, were more willing to disband than on previous nights.
Of those arrested, 16 were Detroiters. Others came into the city from Warren, Westland, Dearborn, Saline, Howell and Eastpointe, police said. On Saturday, more than 80 arrests were made.
Demonstrations in other parts of the state, including Grand Rapids and Lansing, and elsewhere in the country have been marked by looting, fires and violence.
Detroit deputy police chief Todd Bettison on Tuesday gave an emotional account of his actions two nights earlier when he took a knee as protesters and the department's mobile field force lined up on the public safety grounds in a standoff.
"I went to the front and I saw organizers. I saw a lot of angry people. They were saying, 'Kneel with us. Kneel for George Floyd,'" recalled Bettison, the highest ranking officer at the scene. "I said, 'These officers, all of us, our heart aches.' It was emotional."
But a tearful Bettison added afterwards someone from the crowd intent on violence tossed something at the officers, prompting police to deploy tear gas and the crowd to disperse.
"My heart was heavy because I didn't accomplish what I wanted to," he said.
Organizers from the coalition By Any Means Necessary assembled Monday in Detroit at Michigan and Third, next to the city's public safety headquarters building. A fifth demonstration began there late Tuesday afternoon.
Separately, Duggan and the city's top health officer reiterated a decline in the city's confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the death rate, stressing efforts are re underway to help businesses in the city prepare for reopening.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer partially lifted the state's stay-at-home order Monday, allowing for larger outdoor gatherings and operations to resume with restrictions for retail, restaurants and workplaces.
Detroit's City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday that will enable city departments to grant sidewalk seating permits in 24 hours and short turnarounds on street closures. The permits will be accepted beginning Thursday, the mayor said.
"We want to get your businesses open quickly. We want to get your staff back to work," Duggan said.
As of Tuesday, Detroit's Health Department has recorded 11,097 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,380 deaths. Detroit's chief public health officer Denise Fair said over the last week the city recorded its lowest volume of cases since the outbreak began.
"Now it's time to reopen," she said. "Detroiters, you're a big reason why the governor has uplifted the order."