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Detroiters march for justice at Occupy the Corner event

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Detroit city residents, social advocates and community leaders marched for social justice down Rosa Parks Boulevard Friday night, commemorating the 53rd anniversary of the 1967 rebellion during the 7th Annual Occupy the Corner-Detroit event. 

The marchers were led by City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield after a rally at Gordon Park, at the corner of Clairmount and Rosa Parks, where the violence of more than half-a-century ago began. The rally featured a dance performance by SkilSet Movement Studio and remarks by community leaders. 

This year's Occupy the Corner event shifted its usual emphasis on family fun to a rally in support of social justice, reflecting the wave of protests across the country, Sheffield said. 

"There was a recent killing on Six Mile in Detroit with an officer involved, and a resident in Detroit," Sheffield said during the rally, noting the event was taking place even as protests were underway elsewhere in the city over the police shooting Friday of a resident, who police said fired on officers. 

Detroit City Council President Pro Tem  Mary Sheffield speaks at the 7th Annual Occupy the Corner event at Gordon Park in Detroit, MI on July 10, 2020. This year the event focused on police reform.

Friday's tensions in Detroit flared in the wake of nationwide unrest following the death of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police during an incident in May.

"There's a lot happening not only in Detroit but around this country, as it relates to social justice reform, and that's why we're here today," she said. 

Occupy the Corner organizers said about 150 people attended the event, though Sheffield noted that many community activists were not present because they were protesting Friday's death. 

The event was attended by representatives of the Detroit Council of Pastors and advocacy groups including New Era Detroit, Michigan Liberation and others.  

People stand in front of the Charles H Wright museum's Walk to Freedom portable exhibition at the 7th Annual Occupy the Corner event.

Through a partnership with the group When We All Vote, a nonprofit created by former First Lady Michelle Obama and others to increase voter participation, organizers made an online voter registration portal available to help people register to vote.

In a video played by Sheffield, activists including comedienne Loni Love urged Detroiters to participate in community activism and to vote. 

"It's great to see an emphasis on voter registration and turnout," Love said in the video, noting that she is from Detroit. "On behalf of Michelle Obama and When We All Vote, I want you all to understand ... it matters now more than ever to take your voice to the polls.

"You hold the power to elect leaders that represent your interest, and the leaders that lead your community," she said. "Some of you think that your vote doesn't matter. That is not true — every single vote matters."

Twitter: @kbouffardDN