DETROIT -- After five days of police brutality protests ending with large showings of force by the Detroit Police Department, Chief James Craig had a renewed message Wednesday – Detroiters support his department’s actions.
Craig, speaking outside the Family Dollar on Gratiot Avenue where a march Tuesday ended with arrests, was surrounded by members of the neighborhood.
Neighbors flowed into the parking lot the prior night after peaceful, but curfew-violating protesters were met on both sides by officers, some armed with shields and an armored vehicle at their side. At the time, some neighbors expressed anger with the scene unfolding in their neighborhood.
In total, 127 people were arrested Tuesday, most for violating the city's 8 p.m. curfew, Craig said. About four warnings and 50 minutes were allowed before the group on Gratiot, near Conner Street, was approached by police.
Neighbors and officers clapped after the fact when one woman addressed the idea of outsiders coming and leaving a mess on Gratiot, Craig said.
“They’re fed up and they’re tired,” he said. “They understand peaceful protesting. They too share the pain of Mr. Floyd’s unnecessary death at the hands of a police officer. They share that pain, but what they cannot come to grips with is people that come from another city … (who) are here to engage in criminal behavior.”
On Wednesday, Craig reiterated his stance on the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota who died after a white officer knelt on his neck, calling the death a “senseless murder.”
Asked why, though after curfew, the marching group needed to be stopped and directly confronted, Craig recalled prior nights in which he’s said people embedded in the protests sought to cause chaos with fireworks, railroad spikes and violence against officers. In addition, he questioned what might have happened in terms of violence had officers just packed up.
One police supervisor was pulled into the crowd and fired CS gas when protesters kept him from escaping, Craig said. Protesters also complained of some minor injuries, he said.
At least one person was seen bloodied and another was seen being loaded onto a stretcher Tuesday night. The Detroit Free Press has requested more information on the person loaded onto a stretcher.
Of the arrests made, 47 were from the city of Detroit and six were from outside Michigan — D.C., Massachusetts, California and New York, police said. The majority reside in metro Detroit.
Craig said he could not give information about intelligence gathering on the people who he said were embedded in the protests with outside agendas, but questioned the notion that the outsiders could be residents of Detroit listing wrong addresses to avoid Detroit’s high car insurance rates.
“It is not our goal, it is not our desire to arrest protesters,” he said of the overall police response.
City officials have appeared with community and civil rights leaders at multiple news conferences since the protests started, with the groups supporting police action and telling outsiders to protest in their own communities.
On Wednesday, neighborhood resident Ray Winans, 41, spoke out with the chief, saying police saved lives in the neighborhood Tuesday night.
He also spoke out against nonresidents coming to his city, his neighborhood, to cause trouble, saying Detroiters can and will take care of their own needs.
“Stay up out of here,” he said. “Detroiters know how to work together."
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