How Detroit's Police Chief Saved His City from Black Lives Matter
Detroit Will Breathe, the Motor City's BLM franchisee, won a hollow victory last week when a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order that bars Detroit police from using certain non-lethal tactics on "peaceful protesters."
Detroit police chief James Craig responded to the TRO with a shrug. It changes nothing, he told reporters, because that's how his department always handles peaceful protesters. "Every time we've had to use less-than-lethal force, it's been to address violence by protesters, resisting arrest, or when they've tried to take over an intersection in violation of the law."
Compared to the conflagrations BLM has incited in cities like Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, New York, Chicago, and even Kenosha, Detroit Will Breathe has been an epic flop. Drawing mostly small crowds and desperate for media attention, DWB's been stifled from the get-go by Chief Craig's zero-tolerance approach to thugs and looters posing as demonstrators. The first three nights after George Floyd's death, when radicals — most from out of town and some armed with bricks and railroad spikes — ignored a curfew and tried to turn the city into another Minneapolis, Detroit police pushed back hard, using tear gas and making over 140 arrests. That quieted things. A few days later, Detroit Will Breathe somehow finagled a meeting with Mayor Mike Duggan and Chief Craig to lay out their list of demands, like "demilitarizing the police" and making Detroit a sanctuary city. Group organizer and Keeper of the Bullhorn Tristan Taylor felt cocky enough to brag to reporters that the meeting "was on our terms" because "[t]he movement is strong." But not strong enough to mau-mau Duggan and Craig, who nodded pleasantly and then lost their copies of the list.
A few weeks ago, bored with peacefully marching all over without a news crew in sight, DWB decided to try occupying a major downtown intersection. After an hour of demonstrators defying orders to disperse, police moved in and arrested 44 DWB members, encountering the predictable violent resistance. When the inevitable hue and cry was raised over how rough some of the arrests were ("I've never seen a use of force that looks good," Craig remarked), the chief stood his ground. "I am not going to let any group set up a Seattle zone of lawlessness here in the city of Detroit," Craig said. "That is non-negotiable."
After that, the group added Chief Craig's resignation to their list of demands.
Craig sees right through Detroit Will Breathe's "untruthful" message and calls their leaders "misguided radicals." He grew up in Detroit, where he witnessed the 1967 riots — the worst in American history until L.A. took the record in 1992 after the Rodney King verdict. Craig was there for that mayhem, too, as an LAPD officer. After the L.A. riot was declared an insurrection, the Marines and the U.S. Army ended it. Craig knows firsthand that the worst thing you can do when faced with radical lawlessness is agree to negotiate.
He gets away with his outspoken disrespect for DWB because he has Mayor Duggan's support (a Democrat!) and understands that Detroiters at large are "fed up" with groups like DWB "fomenting chaos." He also knows that their agenda doesn't have widespread support from Detroiters, "because the vast majority of the people who attend these protests are from outside the city." Of the 44 people arrested in August, 27 were from other Michigan cities; one came all the way from California.
At the news briefing the day after the failed occupation, Deputy Chief Todd Bettison's message for the group was also short and to the point: "Detroit Will Breathe, you are not welcome. Go." Area leftists, who called Bettison's message "blunt, if not anti-democratic," took issue with the suggestion that most Detroiters weren't happy with DWB's agenda. The Metro Times, the area's pinkish entertainment tabloid, argued illogically that Detroiters must support the protests because they're "organized by Detroit activists."
Because even the activists didn't believe that, they quickly ran to federal court and filed a lawsuit against the police department, the city, Craig, and about a hundred officers, alleging they'd been victims of "excessive force," arrested "en masse" without probable cause, and variously maltreated for no other reason than their peaceable stand against systemic racism. Federal lawsuits are a surefire way to attract media attention, at least for one news cycle; and even if you're sure to lose in the end, you can demand an injunction on the first day, pleading all sorts of ugly stuff the other side must be immediately stopped from doing. If the judge grants your injunction (they're temporary, and this one is for only two weeks), you get to claim victory.
Chief Craig didn't blink. The reason he could say "nothing has changed" is that what U.S. District Judge Laurie J. Michelson's order requires of his officers "is no different than what we've always done" and even '"reinforces' the department's policy." For him, the lawsuit amounts to just "another example of the perpetual false narrative" of systemic police misconduct. His officers don't use force with peaceful protesters, he says, but "[i]f someone is resisting arrest, or trying to attack our officers, we will use the force that's both reasonable and necessary to overcome the resistance." City attorney Lawrence Garcia, who says he's "pleased" with the lawsuit and looks forward to filing a countersuit, can see how DWB deliberately provokes conflict with police: "Wearing a bulletproof vest to a protest shows a certain desire and intent."
Last week's court order is hardly the judicial rebuke DWB-supporters were hoping for. That's because it prohibits the use of several non-lethal tactics, but "against any individual peacefully engaging in protest or demonstrations who does not pose a physical threat to the safety of the public or police." (italics mine). The judge also takes note that police "have difficult and often dangerous jobs that require them to make split-second decisions" and must be allowed "to respond appropriately when the safety of the officers and the City's citizens are threatened." Nowhere in her opinion does she credit the ubiquitous BLM nonsense that all demonstrators are angels and all police officers are white supremacist stormtroopers.
Craig's no-negotiation stance with the likes of Detroit Will Breathe, which in essence rejects DWB's basic premise, is leaving the group toothless — and irrelevant. Unexpectedly, while most of urban and corporate America is being held hostage by social-justice terrorists, the "blackest city in America" is proof that no one ever had to negotiate with Black Lives Matter.
That's a counternarrative the left can't tolerate. So on Tuesday, Rashida Tlaib and three other politicians released a letter demanding more investigations into Detroit's policing and accusing Craig of having "a dismissive attitude of the movement for racial justice" (that is, dismissive of Black Lives Matter). On Thursday, representatives from more than 35 "grassroots community organizations," including the Democrat Socialists of America and the Motor City Street Dance Academy (!), announced their demand for Craig's resignation. On Friday, to help counter Craig's statements that Detroiters don't support DWB's agenda, the Detroit News published poll findings that 94% of Michigan's black voters support Black Lives Matter (and 0 black voters think Trump can improve race relations). The survey didn't track the percentage of respondents who always lie to pollsters.
On Saturday, with Chief Craig still at his post, DWB celebrated its 100th day as a social irritant. One hundred fifty people marched from police headquarters through downtown, "with flags, drums and [of course] megaphones." There was no violence beyond a vandalized statue of Alexander Macomb and the invasion of a restaurant patio to spoil people's dinners with social-justice chants. Organizer Tristan Taylor gave a speech about how they've all been through a long struggle and fight and sacrifice, and how they're still standing anyway. "And not just standing, but moving that needle," he said.
Moving what needle? The only needle we've seen move is the one Chief Craig used to burst these phonies' over-inflated balloon.