350 rally in Inkster over motorist's rough arrest
Inkster — Two civil rights groups rallied Friday calling for "Justice for Floyd Dent," the Detroit man whose arrest and beating by Inkster police was caught on video.
More than 350 people gathered under overcast skies to march in support of Dent, who joined the marchers but declined to comment.
Marching down Michigan Avenue, the protesters chanted, "Hey, hey, hey, ho! Police brutality has to go!"
After marching from the police department's old building to its new headquarters, they congregated at the back of the parking lot, where community leaders called for an end to police brutality.
After the rally, U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit, said he wants a federal investigation into the January incident. In a letter Friday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Conyers said the incident involving Dent raised a "series of issues" worthy of review by the Department of Justice.
"Because it arises from a traffic stop, the Dent incident has touched a nerve throughout the Detroit metro area, in a community where brutality within the police department has been alleged and widely reported in the news media," wrote Conyers, whose district includes Inkster, a majority-black suburb of Detroit.
He said he appreciates ongoing investigations into the incident by state and local authorities but "given the history of the concerns involving the officers involved in the arrest, as well as the Inkster Police Department, direct federal review is warranted in this case."
Angela Martin, Dent's friend and spokeswoman, said she was speechless, "as Mr. Dent and his family are at the outpouring of support."
As they watched the marchers go by, she said, "There wasn't one of us who wasn't emotionally touched."
The Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, led by the Rev. Charles Williams II, and CAIR-Michigan led the protest.
"This is not the end of a movement," Williams said. "We will continue to march, protest, demonstrate until they clear Mr. Dent's name."
Dawud Walid, CAIR-Michigan's executive director, said the protesters aren't anti-police, but they are anti-police brutality.
"We want the police to do their jobs, which is protect and serve," he said. "You all work for us, we don't work for you. We will respect you and you are obligated by the letter of the law and human decency to respect us."
They were joined by former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit.
"No one should ever see a family member beaten like that," Tlaib said. "It's unAmerican. I stand here as part of a campaign to take on hate against anyone ... we won't stand idly by."
The video of Dent, 57, being repeatedly struck by officers during the January incident ignited outrage after it was shown last month. Wednesday, Dent pleaded not guilty in Wayne County Circuit Court to a drug possession charge related to the Jan. 28 traffic stop.
Dent's attorney, Greg Rohl, has said a bag of cocaine found in Dent's car did not belong to his client.
Dent, a longtime Ford Motor Co. employee, has said he was beaten and shocked with a stun gun during the traffic stop on South River Park near Inkster Road. Police said Dent ignored stop signs, refused to pull over and then resisted arrest and threatened officers.
The video footage shows officers putting Dent in a chokehold and hitting him in the head repeatedly.
Dent has denied threatening officers and said he was targeted because he is African-American.
Police say they saw him in a known drug area before stopping him.
Michigan State Police are investigating the incident.
Jennifer Disla, 32, of Ypsilanti said she felt compelled to attend Friday's rally in support of Dent.
"For me, it's about injustice," she said. "When there is injustice like this, we have to be united and come together to fight for justice."