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Protesters push back against federal agents in Detroit, latest police shooting

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Vowing to push back against a federal presence in Detroit as well as fight for ending systemic racism and police brutality, dozens of demonstrators marched again in downtown Detroit on Friday.

Amid a fourth police-involved shooting and growing concerns about economic fallout from the pandemic, the protesters said their efforts remain important in seeking a national transformation in policing.

Tristan Taylor speaks to the crowd at the Detroit Will Breathe rally at the McNamara Federal building in Detroit on Friday.

“We’re seeing a movement that is shaking the foundation of this country,” said Tristan Taylor, an organizer with Detroit Will Breathe. His group and others gathered in the shadow of the McNamara building to prepare marchers for a march through the city as well as another protest set for Saturday on the east side they describe as a mass mobilization.

“We are looking for people to stand with us shoulder to shoulder to unequivocally express our power,” Taylor said. “...We need to say in a forceful way, federal agents, out of Detroit now.”

A woman shows support for the anti-police brutality march as the pedal bar goes by the McNamara Federal building where the marches convened.

The crowd of nearly 100 that met at the federal building before marching toward Midtown and Cass Corridor held signs such as “Keep your secret police” and “How many more,” a reference to officer-involved deaths.

Taylor noted the event happened a day after police said a man wielding a sword near Grand River and Meyers in Detroit who threw a dagger at an officer was fatally shot by police. Taylor said the outcome differed from one in Westland last month in which a driver who turned donuts in an intersection before the SUV erupted in smoke and flames was arrested but not harmed by police.

“There’s a problem” in policing, he said.

The demonstrators also rejected the dozens of federal agents being assigned to Detroit under an expansion of a Trump administration "law-and-order" initiative.

The announcement this week came as the state's largest city has experienced a surge in gun violence. The White House listed Detroit as among several U.S. cities where federal agents will be deployed as part of a Trump program to curb violence.

"What concerns me is how any more black bodies will be shot because federal troops are stomping around in the city, instigating terror," Taylor said.

The federal program also dismayed protester Ana Davis, a 19-year-old from Bloomfield Township.

"After seeing what happened in Portland and Seattle, I did not want that to happen anywhere in the U.S., especially in a place close to my heart like Detroit," she said.

Some activists connected the protests to broader calls for action to stop evictions, water shutoffs and other issues.

Marian Kramer, who leads the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, commended the protesters for staying committed all summer to speak out.

“You are the one that is going to have to lead this fight,” she said. “... It’s to build a better future for these young people who are coming up.”

Others reminded the crowd that after 64 days of demonstrations, they were sparking change. 

Activist Jae Bass noted that a day after their protest in Harper Woods against Mayor Kenneth Poynter over his reported remark about why people "become white supremacists," the official resigned Friday.

"That shows you the power of this movement," Bass said.

The growing support encouraged Nakia Wallace, another activist with Detroit Will Breathe.

"It shows that we are not afraid, we are not intimidated, we will not be bullied," she said. "We will not back down. .. Now is the time to fight. When we fight, we win."