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Peaceful protests continue in Ann Arbor with increased security

people marching
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio
Members of the motorcycle club The Black Syndicate joined protesters in Ann Arbor today.

For the fifth day this week, demonstrators gathered in Ann Arbor to protest excessive police force both nationally and locally. The protests were originally organized in support of Sha'Teina Grady El, who was shown being punched by a Washtenaw County sheriff's deputy in a video that spread across social media this week. 

The protest was just one of many that have popped up in cities across the country against police brutality, spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Former police officer Derek Chauvin is facing murder charges for killing Floyd by kneeling on his neck. Late Friday evening, a peaceful protest in Detroit took a more violent turn, and police officers there used pepper spray and tear gas to divide the crowd. In a press conference on Saturday, Detroit Police Chief James Craig noted that 60 people were arrested, 37 of them from outside the city of Detroit.

While the organizers of the Ann Arbor protest showed support for protests in Detroit, they were clear today that they did not want a similar situation.

woman talking into loud speaker
Credit Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Trische Duckworth addresses the crowd in the Arborland mall in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

"I hear we have some secret antagonizers in the group. We have some people in the group, there are people here who might want to start some confusion," Trische Duckworth told the crowd. "I bet you noticed, we have security and we are not going to do this. We're not going to see what happened in Detroit here. We're setting a tone to do what's right the right way."

The security Duckworth mentioned were members of the Detroit motorcycle club, The Black Syndicate. Members from both the east and "mother" chapters were there to escort the crowd as they marched their way down Washtenaw Avenue and the Arborland mall. 

On Friday, Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton released body cam footage, which showed Sha'Teina Grady El resisting arrest and biting the deputy in the arm. Clayton says the deputy punched her after she bit him. Clayton would not weigh in on whether or not that was an acceptable tactic and said that Attorney General Dana Nessel would decide whether or not to press charges against the deputy. 

woman holding a sign that says "my skin is not a threat"
Credit Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Saturday May 30.

"It breaks my heart that they're trying to paint my sister as what they're painting her as. Because that's not who she is," Duckworth told the crowd. "She is a woman who knows who she is. And whenever who know who you are, people that don't know who they are get threatened. But it's time for us to just stand together, man."

Today's protest took a shorter route than previous marches, and wound through the Arborland Mall, stopping briefly in front of Kroger and Famous Footwear. Grady El was in attendance. 

"I know you came out for me, but it's bigger than me," Grady El told the crowd. "It's about everybody, everyone that's ever been wronged. Everyone that has ever had a family member that has gone through this. It could be you tomorrow. You never know."

Protesters gathered across the state on Saturday.

Roberta Tucker organized a rally in Saginaw. She says people just want to be heard, though she worries that violence at rallies may distract from the message.

“Violence, it hurts more than anything, even though that's how we're being heard, it hurts more than anything," she says.

Rallies are also taking place in Detroit, Kalamazoo, Bay City, Grand Rapids and Harper Woods.

Michigan Radio listeners, readers, and reporters are rising to the challenge every day. If you can, please support essential journalism during this crisis.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
Jodi is Michigan Public's Director of Digital Audiences, leading and developing the station’s overall digital strategy.
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