Demonstrators 'make noise' outside Detroit Golf Club during PGA Tour tournament

Cal Abbo
The Detroit News

Detroit — More than 100 demonstrators gathered in front of the Detroit Golf Club to "make some noise" during the last day of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, a professional golf tournament on the PGA Tour.

Demonstrators met at 2 p.m. at the Palmer Park Community Building to begin their short walk to the golf club and found a portion of the parking lot next to Palmer Park, which demonstrators had expected to use to park their vehicles, barricaded, said Tristan Taylor, an organizer with Detroit Will Breathe, which organized the protest Sunday.

Darrell Flournoy, 28, of Detroit chants while marching along Pontchartrain Boulevard to the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the Detroit Golf Club in Detroit on July 5, 2020. (Nic Antaya, Special to The Detroit News)

Taylor said he believed the police were wrong to barricade the park entrance on a public road. He said he called Councilwoman Mary Sheffield to report the spaces being blocked. The barricades were removed.

"This tournament has been going on since Thursday," Taylor said. "At no point have we observed the type of blockades and police presence since Thursday."

Officers at the scene disputed Taylor's account, saying the same barricades have been up all week. They were unable to confirm the presence of the specific barriers in question. Other representatives for the Detroit Police Department did not immediately respond to Detroit News request for comment about the barricades.

"We have a right to be in these streets," Taylor said. "I want everyone to be conscious of that. "Your eyes and attention should be on each other, making sure we're safe," reassuring those in the crowd, many of whom were present last week when a police SUV hit several protesters.

By 2:30 p.m., demonstrators were marching to the golf club. During the walk, police officers and vehicles lined grass surrounding Pontcartrain Boulvevard, including a few armored trucks. One was labeled "Detroit Police Department Special Response Team."

"We're going to be so damn loud today," Taylor said before they left the park. "This is us and our movement fighting for our rights. That's why we're here. What success looks like today is us being loud."

Protesters have been gathering in Detroit and around the country since the death May 25 of George Floyd, who died as police pressed a knee to his neck while he was under arrest. Protesters have been demanding racial justice and an end to police brutality. 

They danced and chanted to the rhythm of a snare. A few brought other instruments and protesters sang along as a trombone and saxophone played a variation on the famous melody of Steam's 1969 hit, "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye."

Air horns, cow bells, megaphones and maracas joined the chorus. "Show me what democracy looks like," organizers told the crowd. "This is what democracy looks like," demonstrators answered.

Medics and other personnel organized by Detroit Will Breathe rolled a cart along the road, taking turns walking through the group, offering demonstrators cold water, snacks and sunscreen in the blistering heat.

Jordan Weber, 26, of Warren said she participated in the demonstration in part so that officers would be held accountable for the SUV incident, which she said she witnessed.

"We're sick of the lies by Chief Craig and Mayor Duggan," she said. She said she was there "to make some noise and let them know we don't back down to bullies with badges."

Weber emphasized the importance of showing up at an upscale event like a golf tournament in addition to marching downtown. "It's important to come to these events to let them know we're not afraid of them," she said. "We're not afraid of their money. We're not afraid of their power. And we're not afraid of whatever connections they may have. They're not going to stop us because we're not going to stop until we've won."

The executive director of the Rocket Mortgage Classic called the event "bigger than golf."

"The individuals outside the Detroit Golf Club protesting are demanding better," said Jason Langwell in a statement. "They want their voices heard and we support their right to protest.

"This event, with its Changing the Course initiative, is bigger than golf. The Rocket Mortgage Classic is a vehicle to support our charitable effort, which is committing millions of dollars to ending Detroit’s digital divide by investing in infrastructure and organizations that provide internet access, technology and digital literacy programming," Langwell said.

"Changing the Course will largely impact Detroiters of color who have been systemically and disproportionately left behind. Our goal is to address racial inequity by supporting Detroit families through greater access to education, employment, job training, telemedicine and opportunity."

Chants and horns from the protest could be heard by the golfers throughout Sunday's final round, and on the nationally televised broadcast on CBS.

On the seventh tee, eventual champion Bryson DeChambeau heard the chants.

"I know there's a lot of strife and trouble going on right now," DeChambeau said. "To me, I love that everybody's voicing their opinion and I think that they deserve to do so."