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Protesters call meeting with Detroit mayor "uneventful"

Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio

Tuesday's rally to inform protesters about what happened in a meeting with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan got off to a rocky start.

Joanna Underwood, an activist who helped organize the first Detroit protest against police brutality, screamed at, ranted, and angrily lectured the protesters, along with two other activists she accused of "hijacking," the movement she was leading.

Underwood said Tristan Taylor and Nakia Wallace, who'd met with Duggan, were not legitimate leaders of the movement, because they were relatively new to the protest scene, while she'd been working for justice in the city for 15 years.  

Many of the protesters wore expressions of dismay, some likening the display of anger to a public temper tantrum.

It took some time, but eventually Taylor was able to get Underwood away from the crowd for a discussion about the controversy.

Nakia Wallace then briefed the crowd on the meeting with Duggan, which she called "uneventful." She said Duggan's response to a list of demands for an overhaul of law enforcement in Detroit was mainly to suggest forming committees and subcommittees.

She said no lasting change ever came from committees.  

"Then we gotta stay out here until they come out here and talk to us," she said. "We gotta stay out here until they meet our demands."

Some of the demands made included the elimination of a city-business video surveillance program called Project Green Light; demilitarization of the city police department, including getting rid of the armored vehicles used in the recent protests; an end to cash bail; and removing police officers from schools, among others.

After he returned to the briefing, Tristan Taylor agreed that the protests on the streets must continue. He said he would not agree to another meeting with Duggan unless it was a public one, open to all.

He said he was also planning to organize a "People's Tribunal," putting the police department and city officials on a public trial for their heavy handed use of the law to oppress black residents.

The mayor's office has not responded to a request for comment.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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