Southwest Detroit rally backs police

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Detroit – — When Jesse Gonzales' friends came home from the Vietnam War, he remembers how they were ashamed to admit they had fought in the war.

Gonzales doesn't want Detroit police to feel this way, especially since tensions remain between the police, African-Americans and others in the wake of several national tragedies.

So Gonzales organized a rally at Clark Park on Wednesday to support Detroit police and take a stand that residents will not tolerate hatred toward those who protect the community from crime.

"It is totally wrong," said Gonzales, a community activist in southwest Detroit. "I want them to be proud and know that we don't want hatred in our neighborhood. They are our protectors."

Nearly 50 people attended the rally, in spite of frigid temperatures and blustery winds that made it among the most bone-chilling days since last winter's polar vortex. The crowd included neighbors, business owners and religious representatives, along with some active and retired police officers.

Detroit Police Capt. John Serda thanked everyone who had come out to show them support.

"These have been difficult times on many different fronts," Serda said. "Lot of tragedies: young people losing their lives that shouldn't be, and it hurts us all. The job is difficult but the community support we get is so important to us. ... If we give each other love and respect and pray for each other, we'll all do a great job together to keep this community safe."

The rally came after last summer's police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner — black, unarmed men in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, N.Y. — and subsequent investigations that did not result in indictments.

The Rev. George Bozanich, of Trinity St. Marks United Church of Christ on stage-center, says a prayer for police officers and first responders.

Demonstrations have been staged across the country to protest the killings, including several in Detroit.

Last week, Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and killed two New York City police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, then himself. Brinsley said on social media that the killings were in retribution for the deaths of Brown and Garner.

The rally also came as crime in Detroit has decreased 19 percent from 2012, though the FBI's Uniform Crime Report showed that the city's murder and violent crime rates were among the highest in the nation. Homicides were down 15 percent and robberies down 24 percent.

Assistant Detroit Police Chief Steve Dolunt said someone asked him recently if he was was proud of the drop.

"I am proud of my officers," Dolunt said. "Reduction comes from the community. ... Let's have a safe new year."