Detroit protesters push to cut funding for police

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Detroit — As a legion of activists gathered downtown Friday in the continuing protest against racial injustice, Natasha T. Miller professed her support of the movement to defund the police as part of her response to police brutality and racism.

The concept, championed by citizens who are protesting the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other black Americans, seeks to divert funding from police departments to other community institutions.

Miller said she supports defunding the police because she opposes having tax dollars support the policing of communities, especially those of color, in ways that are harmful to citizens instead of protecting them.

Demonstrators begin a 15th straight day of marching to protest police brutality and racism in Detroit on Friday, June 12, 2020.

"I feel like we are giving (the police) the resources to harm us and kill us," said Miller, a Detroit poet and activist. "At this point in time, we need to take some of that power away from (the police) and the best way to do that is to take some of their financial resources away." 

Miller was among hundreds of citizens who showed up for the 15th consecutive day of protests in Detroit in the wake of the death of Floyd, who died May 25 in Minneapolis after former police officer Derek Chauvin, a white man, pressed his knee onto Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.

Floyd's death has spawned protests around the globe and ushered in demands for justice in his death, along with change in other issues affecting African Americans, from poverty to health care to  housing — even simple, daily interactions with others.

"We have to stay focused and we have to continue with our demands to be heard, to be listened to and to be respected," said "Baba" Baxter Jones, a disability advocate and community activist. "There are people in charge of these systems, they are hoping that you will get tired, that you will get weary, that you will give up and go back to doing things the way they were before. We cannot afford to go back to the way it was before!"

“Baba” Baxter Jones, a disability advocate and community activist, at the 15th straight day of civil rights marching in Detroit on Friday, June 12, 2020.

Friday's protest drew about 300 activists of all races and ages on a temperate afternoon outside of the Detroit Police Department headquarters downtown. Most were wearing masks to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Many came carrying signs with slogans such as "Who Do You Call When The Cops Kill," "Black Lives More Than Matter" and "The Revolution is Here."

While the crowd was smaller than in previous days, organizers said that some protesters took a break on Thursday and Friday to gear up for protests on Saturday and Sunday. Like other marches this past week, the demonstration was peaceful, and participants started dispersing about 8:15 p.m.

Kate Stenvig, a national organizer with the activist group, By Any Means Necessary, kicked off the speeches that have begun the protests each day, saying they have been working to build  a community defense against federal immigration raids and deportations, and the same method is what is needed for "backing off ICE and racist killer cops from our communities."

"It's to make it unsafe for them, for ICE and the cops, to feels like they can come into our communities and harass and terrorize people," said Stenvig. "We do that by building the community's defense by marching, backing them off and building our power." 

Several others spoke, including Derek Grigsby, who said the protests are so important.

"Black lives matter, man," said Grigsby. "That is as simple as we can get it."

Marchers protesting police brutality and racism pass Michigan Central Station in Detroit on Friday, June 12, 2020.

The crowd then gathered on Michigan Avenue and began marching west toward Southwest Detroit. 

In tune with a drum beat, they chanted: "No Justice, No Peace. (Expletive) these racist (expletive) police."

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com