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Detroit town hall meeting ends abruptly amidst outbursts

A community meeting with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing came to an abrupt and early end last night.

Bing and members of his administration were booed and heckled offstage after about 20 minutes.

Before the meeting broke down, Bing took questions from a few people. Most were angry questions, about issues ranging from the city’s lagging bus system, to a proposal to let the state lease Belle Isle.

But police officers were the most angry and vocal members of the audience, eventually driving Bing and his officials to leave the meeting.

Later, Bing said he understands all the anger—but said the crowd had started acting “like a mob.”

“This is not a negotiating session,” Bing said. “This is all about a community coming out, voicing their concerns.

“If people are going to disrespectful, that’s not going to get us anywhere.”

Police officers, like almost all Detroit city workers, have been hit by cost-cutting moves. They’ve lost pay and benefits, and started working twelve-hour shifts.

Detroit police officer Baron Coleman understands his fellow officers’ anger. He said the twelve-hour shifts are exhausting and unsustainable.

“The whole thing about twelve hours is to stop money,” Coleman said. “They want to stop the overtime. And it’s successful—they’re gonna save a lot of money. And they’re gonna lose a lot of cops.”

Detroit’s new city charter requires the mayor to hold occasional community meetings.

Bing said he won’t let this experience deter him from holding others.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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