Marxists in Detroit!?!

So, despite my name, I usually don’t talk about Detroit issues much on this channel, but I gotta make an exception. On the 24 of Sept, 2020, the Detroit chief of Police, James Craig, jumped on the “protesters are financed by outside Marxists” bandwagon. The evidence? Uhaul trucks full of canvas signs! 

Here is exactly what he said, on Fox & Friends:

https://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2020/09/24/chief-craig-makes-baseless-claims-about-marxist-protesters-on-fox-news

So much to unpack here!

Uhauls! You can legit rent them at gas stations. They’re not fancy. I remember, when I went to Wayne State in the early 2000s, you could rent a Uhaul from the gas station on the corner of Palmer and Woodward.

On Marxists: Oh no! People are going to talk to them about… economic theory?? The horror!

I am so sick of this idea that socialism, Marxism and Soviet-style communism all mean the same thing, and that they mean you want bread lies, secret police and the ability to send people to Siberia. That’s intellectually dishonest, and it’s just using scare tactics to keep from talking about the real issues of policing. Because that’s why Craig used the word Marxism— to scare people.

Does it surprise you that Donald Trump likes Craig?

In all seriousness, though, Craig’s issues go a lot deeper than this dumb viral moment. His policies have some serious issues, which the Black Lives Matter protests have highlighted.

In this video, I want to focus on two Issues related to police in Detroit, One, residency requirements for police, and second, the excess force the police have used against protesters and journalists in the Black Lives Matter protests. I’ve done some research on this, and all the news articles I show will be linked in the video description. While restructuring and defunding police is part of a national conversation, in Detroit, these issues are especially complex.

Let’s start with residency, which is about requiring police officers to live in the cities that they work for. To me, this seems like a no-brainer— having police patrolling the areas they live in seems better than having police come in from outside and patrol an area they don’t have a connection with. 

Residency requirements for cops have been part of the discussion across the US since the George Floyd shooting in May 2020. More importantly for Detroit, though, is how residency, race and police intersect.

To understand why, we have to go back a ways, to 1967. That year, part of the “long, hot summer,” saw a massive race rebellion in Detroit, which started after police raided an after-hours bar in the city. Historians point to the division between Detroit’s police— which were mostly white— and the city’s residents, who were mostly black— as a source for this tension. 

This division, between black and white, and also, between the city and its suburbs, has roots in the 1940s and 50s. As the city grew and highways were added, people began to move out to the suburbs— well, that is, white people. African-Americans could not easily purchase houses in white neighborhoods, thanks to systemic discrimnation on the part of banks and real estate agents. This discrimination, called redlining, is the root of a lot of the continuing racial inequalities we see in Detroit cuurently.

After the 1967 rebellion, which lasted five days, left 43 dead and forever changed Detroit, Michigan required police officers to work in the cities they patrolled in. Police unions pushed back against this, but the requirements were in place for over two decades, until 1999.

In Crain’s Detroit Business, there’s a fascinating article looking at the history of this— I really recommend checking it out, and listening to the interview with the journalists on Detroit Today. One statistic that really stuck out to me was this: right now, only 3 percent of white Detroit police officers actually live in Detroit. 3 percent? That’s… awful. Let’s listen— it’s at about 6 minutes in.

I think this gap— between the people who live in Detroit versus the people who enforce the laws in Detroit— further erodes trust between police and residents.

It’s true, changing this would have to be at the state level, but I think Governor Gretchen Whitmer would be more than happy to work to get legislation like this passed. She infamously sparred with Trump over lockdown rules last summer.

I mean, residency has worked for other jobs— like Detroit’s city council. Once councilmembers lived in just a few wealthy neighborhoods, the city now has a combination of a district and at-large system.

Ok. So if not residency as a requirement, what about offering incentives to people moving to Detroit, like income tax reduction? Because there’s got to be a way to heal this decades-old rift between the police and the residents in Detroit.

Are you at all surprised that James Craig is opposed to residency requirements for police? Yeah.

Also, I think it’s incredibly obnoxious that Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is using this divisive rhetoric about outside suburban protesters in Detroit, when the police themselves are from the suburbs. If you want to talk about community… help build a community! Not poke at decades-old racial divides.

Let’s take a look at another issue Craig has: the use of excessive force, against both protestors and reporters covering the BLM protests. Let’s start with the protesters. When I saw this video, streamed by the Detroit Free Press, it really scared me. Here, we see Detroit police boxing peaceful protestors in before a mass arrest— and soon after, those same officers took a knee for the camera.

https://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2020/06/03/detroit-police-kneeled-for-the-cameras-minutes-after-arresting-about-100-peaceful-protesters

There’s been so many stories and tweets and images from the protests, and here’s one about Detroit police shooting three journalists with rubber bullets. At least the officer was charged?

I want to know why police officers have this type of equipment. It’s not like Detroit is rolling in money. I mean, the city had to file for bankruptcy in 2013 and because of that, underwent a massive restructuring. Looking at this video is so frightening, on so many levels. Why do police have this equipment? And how could this money be better spent?

Speaking of spending money, I’m going to go back to my first point— residency for police. This was something I heard in the Detroit Today interview.

I really think the key to Detroit’s recovery is the schools… and unfortunately, fixing it is a viscous circle. Police and others don’t want to live in Detroit, citing reasons like high crime and poor quality public schools. However, those public schools are funded by… wait for it… taxes on city residents. Less people living in the city, the lower quality the schools will be. I did a video on how public education is funded in the US, and unfortunately, our current system means that once a city’s schools start to decline, it’s so hard to improve them again. That issue is funding tied to the people who live in the city.

It’s a lot to untangle, but I think Craig should at least acknowledge this… and not go blaming Marxists for the city’s problems.

But this isn’t the first time he’s had some seriously questionable judgment. Last summer, in 2019, he decided to use Detroit police to protect… a group of Nazis marching during Detroit’s gay pride.

When I say Nazis, I mean, you know. Nazis. The ones with the swastika and the hate? I’m not saying Nazis don’t have the right to be Nazis, but maybe… have them hold their counter protest somewhere else? Detroit’s a big city. And don’t act all surprised when people criticize the police for protecting literal… Nazis?

To be fair, Detroit Police have made a few changes this year: like banning chokeholds and shooting from moving vehicles. But it’s a little like kneeling: without structural change, this feels largely symbolic.

There’s a lot of other issues I could go into, from the shooting of Malice Green in the early 90s, to the shooting of deaf man Errol Shaw for holding a rake. It’s also important to note that after Shaw’s death, then-Detroit mayor Dennis Archer asked for a federal probe into the police’s use of deadly force. After the probe, the police increased training on avoiding deadly force by 10 hours— from 16 to 26. I’d love to know what DPS’s training looks like now, as these changes were made in 2006.

I think all these issues are connected, and has to do with politicians fixing problems, and not looking at the root cause, which is economic disparity and racial injustice. Those are hard things to deal with, but if Detroit is going to move forward, it has to— and I think Detroit can overcome its past.

Thanks for watching! I’ve got links to all these news articles in the video description. Support local journalism— show some love for the reporters covering this stuff, from WDET to the Free Press. I’ve also got links to Detroit Will Breathe, the group organizing protests in Detroit, as well as some links to bail funds.

And we’re on social media! Leave me a comment, or some analytics to look at.

Support the organizers: https://twitter.com/DETWILLBREATHE

Support the protestors: https://detroitprotestbailout.com/

Detroit Justice Center: https://www.detroitjustice.org/

Sources:

Detroit police chief makes baseless claims about ‘Marxist’ protesters on Fox News

https://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2020/09/24/chief-craig-makes-baseless-claims-about-marxist-protesters-on-fox-news

What James Craig said:

Trump calls Detroit police chief ‘terrific’

https://eu.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2020/09/23/trump-detroit-police-chief-terrific/3501607001/

https://www.fox2detroit.com/video/853300

How the roots of Detroit’s police department helped spawn 1967 rebellion:

https://www.michiganradio.org/post/how-roots-detroits-police-department-helped-spawn-1967-rebellion

Redlining in Detroit:

Reexamining residency rules for Detroit police officers

https://www.crainsdetroit.com/crains-forum/reexamining-residency-rules-detroit-police-officers

Less Than a Quarter of Detroit Police Officers Live in the City

https://wdet.org/posts/2020/07/27/89857-less-than-a-quarter-of-detroit-police-officers-live-in-the-city/

Drawing district lines for a changed Detroit City Council

https://www.michiganradio.org/post/drawing-district-lines-changed-detroit-city-council

Leaders call out protesters from suburbs who participated in violent Detroit George Floyd protest

https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/local/2020/05/30/leaders-call-out-protesters-from-suburbs-who-participated-in-violent-detroit-george-floyd-protest/

Detroit Police kneeled for the cameras minutes after arresting about 100 peaceful protesters

https://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2020/06/03/detroit-police-kneeled-for-the-cameras-minutes-after-arresting-about-100-peaceful-protesters

The live stream:

Detroit police bans chokeholds, shooting from moving vehicle in updated use-of-force policy

https://eu.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2020/09/02/detroit-police-bans-chokeholds-use-of-force-policy/5685046002/

Felony Charges for Detroit Officer Accused of Shooting 3 Journalists With Rubber Pellets

Manslaughter Charges for Detroit Cop (article from 2006)

https://eu.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2020/06/09/detroit-police-violence-prompted-federal-oversight-reforms/5320917002/

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