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Detroiters add their voices to outrage over Ferguson

Oralandar Brand-Williams, Mark Hicks, Candice Williams and Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Detroit — Metro Detroiters filled the streets Tuesday night in a show of solidarity with other demonstrators across the country to protest a grand jury decision not to indict a Ferguson officer in the shooting death of an unarmed teen in August.

On Detroit's east side, scores of protesters chanted and carried signs and banners as they marched down Gratiot as traffic and a phalanx of police cars slowly followed them. The protest moved to Interstate 94, where demonstrators heading downtown filled all westbound lanes.

Participants said the underlying sentiment was frustration and anger over police brutality and perceived racism. Police said six people were detained.

"I'm just tired," said Manisha Hurt, who was carrying a sign. "Something has to change. It's sad that young black men can't walk the streets."

On Interstate 75 on Tuesday night, dozens of people walked down the middle of the freeway in a similar protest.

No arrests were made in that rally, said Lt. Mike Shaw, spokesman for Michigan State Police. More than 30 protesters entered the freeway and walked in northbound lanes near Mack Avenue.

"Troopers escorted them off Mack Avenue ramp," Shaw said. "They were peaceful. They were walking right down the middle of the freeway. We had to slow traffic down naturally."

Tuesday afternoon, 50 students marched through Wayne State University's campus. With their arms linked, they chanted "No justice. No peace."

After the march, they painted a large rock on campus black, and spray painted the name of Michael Brown in silver.

Joshua Rainer, 18, a student at the College of Creative Studies, held a photo of Brown, who was black. He said hearing there would be no indictment against Wilson, who is white, was unsettling.

"This was a very constructive means of participating in social change," said Rainer of Detroit. "I'm glad I could be here. I'm actually a few minutes late for class. This was worth it."

Marcus Hester, a Wayne State secondary education major, said the killing of black people by law enforcement or those affiliated with law enforcement has become the new norm.

"I felt I could be walking down the street and be killed and nobody would pay for it," said Hester, 25. "I'm not scared of a whole lot. I was scared."

At noon, another group of about 80 people braved cold temperatures, carried signs and chanted outside the federal courthouse on West Lafayette downtown, "Hey, hey ... ho, ho ... killer cops have got to go," and "What do we want? Justice!" under the watchful eyes of federal security officers and top city police officials.

"We've very upset," said the Rev. Charles Williams II, Michigan regional president for the National Action Network. "Our concern is that there was no trial."

Williams said "a national mobilization" is being planned as part of a larger demonstration against the grand jury's decision, which he said was unjust.

Renla Session of Detroit, who took part in Tuesday's protests, said she would like to see an economic boycott to protest the decision.

"I see a trend here. There is no justice for black people," said Sessions, as she marched with others in a line outside the federal courthouse. "It's open season on blacks. They take our vote and our lives."

Huntington Woods resident Rich Feldman also called the decision in the Ferguson case "an outrage."

"It's an outrage that Mr. Brown is killed. It's an outrage that we have been so silent as a nation," Feldman said.

And in downtown Detroit on Tuesday afternoon, activists with the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, the Moratorium NOW! Coalition and other groups gathered in Hart Plaza.

More than 50 people then marched throughout downtown, calling for justice.

"Anybody who's paying attention is furious," said Mikera Manning of Detroit, addressing a clapping crowd at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.

Williams said his group and others are asking the U.S. Department of Justice to try Wilson's case in federal court.

They've called on President Barack Obama and the U.S. Attorney General's Office to seek swift action from the Department of Justice, he said.

"We are looking for immediate prosecution," Williams said. "This is certainly a hot issue across the country, and the people's lawyer, which is the Department of Justice, needs to act on our behalf immediately."

Other local groups such as the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality also condemned the decision.

"While the Missouri governor was attempting to fend off violent protests regarding the grand jury decision in the killing of Michael Brown, many around the world are asking, could there be a fair assessment of the facts around a young African-American man shot by a white police officer?" said Ron Scott, a member and spokesman for the coalition.

"This question today is being asked throughout the United States and around the world. The failure of the grand jury to indict casts a long, horrific shadow on the United States justice system. ...

The Justice Department is conducting a separate investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges. The department also has launched a broad probe into the Ferguson Police Department, looking for patterns of discrimination.

Like other authorities across the country, Detroit police were preparing to deal with the reaction after the decision.

Detroit Police Chief James Chief said his department is looking at body cameras for police officers in his department.

Craig said there have been discussions about the use of the cameras which Craig estimates are $1,500 per officer.

Detroit police officials said Tuesday there were no immediate plans for additional officers or monitoring for local protests surrounding the Ferguson case and that the department supports citizens' right to protest.

The Associated Press contributed.