Plenty of Detroiters welcome 'outside agitators' in Black Lives Matter march

Jun 6, 2020 at 1:35 pm
click to enlarge Plenty of Detroiters welcome 'outside agitators' in Black Lives Matter march
Steve Neavling

Echoing a line that has been repeated from officials in cities across the nation, Mayor Mike Duggan and Police Chief James Craig have blamed "outside agitators" for organizing Detroit's Black Lives Matter protests. In press conferences, Duggan has brought out old guard community activists who say that these outsiders are not welcome in Detroit and would be better off marching in their own suburban communities.

There are a number of fallacies with this logic. For one, it's a bit absurd for Duggan — Detroit's first white mayor since the 1970s, who has made making the city appealing to white suburbanites a priority of his administration — to suddenly be concerned with re-drawing racial boundaries. Beyond that, protesters having non-Detroit addresses on their IDs means little in a city where use of suburban addresses to evade the city's high taxes and insurance rates is a rampant issue. Plus, most of the city's police force does not reside in the city.

Second, the "Black Lives Matter" movement is more powerful if it draws a rainbow coalition. Non-Black protesters are joining to cause to use their privilege to assert that Black lives matter, too. Indeed, photos from the past week of protests shows a largely white, mostly young coalition of supporters. (Duggan and Craig are also ignoring the fact that Detroit's Black Lives Matter protests are led by Black Detroiters like Tristan Taylor.)

But a third thing to note is what we're seeing at the protests with our own eyes. On Friday, as Detroit entered an eighth straight evening of protesting, the march headed to the west side — to the intersection formerly known as 12th and Clairmount, or the location of the incident that sparked the bloody 1967 summer of civil unrest. Dozens of Detroiters came out of their houses in this neighborhood to cheer the largely white protesters on, pumping their fists in the air, taking photos, dancing, and some even dropping whatever they were doing to join the march.

No doubt the activists at Duggan's press conference are sincere in their skepticism of the outsiders. But the blanket statement that these peaceful protesters are not welcome in the community is simply not true. We think it's time to retire this "outside agitators" trope.

Friday's protest ended without incident, making a third day of peace between the protesters and Detroit police, who escorted the march through the city.

You can see more photos here.

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