Royal Oak police to probe confrontation over veterans monument move

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

A veterans controversy in Royal Oak is heating up, with a former serviceman alleging he was confronted and “bumped” while circulating petitions to have voters decide whether to move a monument.

Royal Oak plans to shift the Veterans Memorial about 40 feet from its spot between City Hall and the library to a location about 40 feet away as part of the $4.6 million Centennial Park redevelopment project.

Frank Roche, 71, of Royal Oak said he is part of a group that opposes the city’s plan to shift the Veterans Memorial about 40 feet from its spot between City Hall and the library as part of the $4.6 million Centennial Park redevelopment project.

City officials say they value the memorial, which would be moved for the second time since 2007, and want to keep it safe from skateboarders and others.

Roche and others hope to gather enough signatures to get the relocation question on the November general election ballot. That's what he was doing Saturday at the Farmers Market.

“I was asking an elderly woman at the market to sign the petition when this fellow got a little aggressive, accusing me of lying and telling her not to sign it,” he said. “He tried to bump me a few times and to get at the lady.

“He told me he was going to report me for misrepresenting the city and I told him I wasn’t and didn’t care what he tried to do,” Roche said. “I told him he was way out of line and to move on because things weren’t going to get any better for him.”

Roche said the man was wearing a green COVID mask with bared teeth and kept shouting before moving a few feet away to a table where several city commissioners and their supporters were collecting signatures for their re-election campaigns.

Roche said the woman signed his petition, as did several other bystanders who witnessed the exchange.

“I believe in what I’m doing and was not going to be intimidated, which appeared to be his goal,” he said.

Pamela Lindell, a former candidate for the city commission, was collecting petition signatures for the ballot issue at the same time as Roche.

“That same guy who nudged Frank approached me a couple hours earlier,” Lindell said. “He knew me by name and said he and others didn’t like me and what we were doing was wrong because the matter had already been decided. He shouted we were lying and misrepresenting things to people. He called us liars and stomped around.

“It was unbelievable,” she said. “Here it was a beautiful, sunny first day of spring. But he didn’t seem to care if anyone saw what he was doing — probably because he was covered up with that horrible mask.”

On Sunday, Lindell and Roche filed complaints with the Royal Oak Police Department. Sgt. Richard Millard of the police investigations section said Monday a report of a “minor assault” was made at the department’s front desk on Sunday and it would be assigned to a detective.

Veterans and others plan to submit their first batch of signature petitions to Royal Oak’s city clerk on Tuesday morning. To get the memorial question, on the November ballot, the petitions will require at least 650 signatures, Lindell said.

(248) 338-0319