Protesters call for Detroit chief, officer to be fired after officer drove into marchers

Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News

Detroit — Protest organizers who gathered Monday for a march in the city demanded that the police officer who drove through a crowd of protesters Sunday night be fired and charged, and that the city's police chief step down, despite Chief James Craig saying the officers thought they were being “fired upon.”

“I am angry,” said Trendel Anderson, 23, who said he was close to being seriously injured when the officer accelerated through the crowd of demonstrators that had surrounded his patrol SUV late Sunday. “I want justice.”

Activist Dwayne Taylor speaks to a group of demonstrators outside of the Southwest Public Safety Center in Detroit before a march through downtown Detroit, June 29, 2020.

More than 300 marchers gathered Monday at the Detroit Police Department’s Fourth Precinct on Fort Street in southwest Detroit to listen to accounts of marchers like Anderson who said they were almost run over. Organizers said the march was peaceful and protesters were trying to get wind down the protest when police tried to force them down a different route with their squad cars.

More:Craig: Officer who drove through crowd believed shots had been fired

“We will not be intimidated,” said Gabriela Alcazar, an organizer with the coalition of groups that marched Sunday. “We will not accept more life lost to police violence.”

Craig said earlier Monday that the officer, initially escorting the protesters, who drove a police vehicle through a crowd of protesters thought “they were being fired upon” and believed protesters were trying to open the SUV's doors. Craig said the department was investigating but said the officers had to take "evasive action."

Protesters called for the department to remove the officer and for Craig to step down as a result of the officer's alleged actions on Sunday and the chief's response.

Craig said during the news conference that there were reports Sunday that several protesters had hammers and the back window of the police vehicle was busted out with a skateboard, but demonstrators on Monday said Craig was lying about marchers having hammers as weapons. 

Activist Tristan Taylor speaks to a group of demonstrators outside of the Southwest Public Safety Center in Detroit before a march through downtown Detroit, June 29, 2020.

Video shows the SUV was driving alongside the protesters and then moved into the crowd. As marchers crowded around the vehicle, the driver accelerated, knocking several people to the ground. Some jumped on the hood as the officer continued to drive while others chased after the vehicle.

Detroit Will Breathe and other groups have organized marches in Metro Detroit in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25. The group held a public tribunal earlier this month in Hart Plaza challenging police treatment of protesters in the early days of the marches, which included police in riot gear deploying tear gas and firing rubber bullets while making arrests and enforcing a curfew.

The march continued through southwest Detroit and moved back toward the 4th Precinct, Julian Rios, 21, of Detroit called for change.

“This shouldn’t be necessary,” Rios said.

Ashley Daniels, a Wayne County organizer with Michigan Liberation, said demonstrators won’t stop pushing for police reform.

“It’s time to put money into the things that will prevent crime,” the 28-year-old said.