Detroit City Council launched an investigation into a police officer’s decision to plow his squad car through a crowd of protesters on Sunday night.
“What happened last night was not OK, and it needs to be addressed,” Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López said Monday. “I was very disturbed by the video I saw. It was a protest intended to bring together Black and brown communities.”
Videos posted on social media show protesters surrounding a police car before it sped off with several demonstrators on the hood and in front of the SUV. Several people were injured, and others were nearly run over.
Detroit Police Department drove into 10-12 protesters including myself. Multiple people are going to the hospital. #NoJusticeNoPeace #detroitpolice #GeorgeFloyd #BreonnaTayor #PoliceBrutality pic.twitter.com/etj3a6ejzN— Activist Ethan Ketner (@DJEazyTwist) June 29, 2020
Chief James Craig defended the officer’s actions, saying the two cops in the vehicle feared for their safety after protesters smashed the rear window and surrounded the cruiser. Craig claimed, without evidence, that several protesters were “armed with hammers,” an allegation that demonstrators adamantly deny.
“When that rear window was broken, the officers had to make decision,” Craig told council members. “They felt a clear and present threat, and they decided to leave the location.”
Craig said he, too, would have fled.
“I would have made any effort I would have to get out of harms way,” Craig said.
Protesters said the incident escalated when the police car drove through the peaceful crowd, narrowly clipping several people. Police typically allow protesters to march without intervening, but for reasons that remain unclear, officers on Sunday tried to prevent demonstrators from returning to a park.
"For whatever reason, someone felt it would be important to guide them in a more direct route," Craig said. "It caused the agitation to escalate."
Castañeda-López is requesting the police department to turn over all videos of the incident, saying Craig’s claims about what happened were not seen in the vides on social media.
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib also denounced the incident.
"This is outrageous. Our Detroit residents fought hard to have an elected police commission to oversee abuse and misconduct by police," she wrote on Facebook. "Detroit Board of Police Commissioners: I hope you understand the gravity of this, especially if not fully investigated, documented, and addressed.
Just hearing those screams shook me. Enough with the silence."
Police have come under fire for firing rubber bullets, flash bang grenades, and tear gas in the early days of protests that began in late May over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
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