Protest for Black family becomes clash between Detroit Will Breathe and Trump supporters

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Warren — What was expected to be a protest to defend a Black family targeted with racially motivated attacks on Saturday ended up as a standoff between Black Lives Matter proponents and Donald Trump supporters. 

Activist group Detroit Will Breathe, as well as the South Warren Alliance for Radical Movement, organized a protest for the Halls, who were victim of what Warren police say were "hate crimes" earlier this month

During the same time, a Back the Blue rally was held across the street on Hoover Road with people holding Trump 2020 flags. 

A Detroit Will Breathe protester argues with a Trump supporter before the March Against Racism in Warren on Sept. 19, 2020. The march in Warren occurred in response to the city called hate crimes against residents Candace Hall, her husband Eddie and their two children.

"What does Trump have to do with this... because of what happened to us, why are you here doing that? If anything we should be supporting each other," father and husband Eddie Hall said.  

Tensions were high even before the march began. Profanities were yelled from both sides as protesters came face to face with each other. 

At one point, a woman who Tristan Taylor, a Detroit Will Breathe organizer, said was not part of the group was walking on the Trump supporter's side and got in an altercation with supporters.

The woman was holding onto a flag while multiple men tried to take it out of her hands, pulling the woman around on the ground. 

"There's a lot of things that's going on that are trying to blame each side because they want us in a civil war... we don't want to fight, we want to unite," said Ellie Seals, a Detroit woman who held a flag with the Trump supporters.

A Trump supporter improperly wears a mask while counter protestering the March Against Racism in Warren on Sept. 19, 2020. The march in Warren occurred in response to the city called hate crimes against residents Candace Hall, her husband Eddie and their two children.

Warren, Michigan's third largest city by population, has long played a significant role in Metro Detroit's racial landscape. Bordering Detroit, it resisted integrated housing into the 1970s. Among the last inner-ring suburbs to integrate, less than 3% of its population in 2000 was Black. By 2019, that population had grown to nearly 19%.

Significantly during this election season, the blue collar suburb lies in Macomb County, which Trump won by about 48,000 votes in 2016, and is home to many so-called "Reagan Democrats," traditional Democratic voters who supported Ronald Reagan and similarly powered Trump to a narrow victory in Michigan.

As the march went on throughout main roads and residential streets in Warren on Saturday, several smaller disputes occurred. Drivers argued with protesters to get out of the streets, although the march had a police escort from state police and Warren police. 

Residents came out of their homes as protesters walked by to continuously chant "Trump," to yell for demonstrators to get of their grass and to tell people to take off their masks. 

"It's been uncomfortable and a little bit unsettling and kind of tense. We feel some type of way about what happened and knowing that racism is that close to home where I live is a little bit uncomfortable," said Duane Daniels, a 22-year-old Warren resident. 

Protesters marched for over two hours and ended with organizers calling for a public hearing in Warren. 

"We need Mayor Fouts and all the city officials in Warren to take responsibility for the perpetrating, racist policies that are created... there has to be a spectacular amount of racism that you have to have in your body to try and demonstrate against a rally defending a Black family whose house got shot up," said Taylor.

Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer confirmed an altercation happened between the two groups, but the issue was resolved quickly with no injuries and no arrests. 

"Overall, I thought it was a very peaceful protest, which obviously under the First Amendment they have that right," he said. "And our task is to maintain a safe environment for all."

About 250 people participated in the march with Detroit Will Breathe, Dwyer said. 

At the end of the march, demonstrators heard from a protester that came from Portland, and the Hall family expressed appreciation for the support. 

A Trump supporter yells at Detroit Will Breathe protesters before the March Against Racism in Warren on Sept. 19, 2020. The march in Warren occurred in response to the city called hate crimes against residents Candace Hall, her husband Eddie and their two children.

"It's not just about me and my husband or our children but it's about each and every one of us so that we can live neighbor to neighbor... we don't believe in hate or violence or any of that, we just want to be able to live peacefully among our neighbors," said wife and mother Candace Hall. 

Between September 7-9, Candace and Eddie Hall's home was attacked. On Sept. 7 around 10:30 p.m. someone fired shots at the home, although the Halls said at first they thought it was fireworks.

The following Wednesday, around the same time, someone threw a large rock through the front window of the home, which had a Black Lives Matter sign. Someone also slashed the tires on the Halls’ car, and used a marker to draw a swastika on the vehicle, along with the inscriptions "terrorist Black Lives Matter," "not welcome," and "get the f--- out," police said. 

The next day, police say they recovered six 9 mm shell casings from the Halls' home from a shooting that occurred about 11:30 p.m. Police also have grainy video of a man slinking around the side of the Halls' house.

On Saturday, Dwyer said there was a second incident last week, in the same neighborhood, that was believed to have been committed by the same suspect. In that case, the garage door of a home with Biden signs on the lawn was graffitied with the word "pedofile" and a rock was thrown through the window. The homeowner is white.

Dwyer said that incident wasn't racially motivated but rather appeared to be "provoked by political signs."

Dwyer said finding the man is the department's number one priority. 

"We're putting all our resources into that," he said. "I feel very confident that person will be arrested very soon."

Detectives said the suspect was about 5' 8", and between 20-25 years old. He appeared to be muscular, but police said they couldn't determine his race. Because he fled on foot after each incident, Dwyer said police believe he lives in the neighborhood.

Dwyer said police are offering a $3,000 reward for information leading to the suspect's arrest. He added his detectives have alerted the FBI about the incidents, and that he plans to seek federal charges against the man once he's arrested.