Federal Judge Temporarily Prohibits Detroit Police From Using Batons, Gas And Rubber Bullets On Peaceful Protesters

By and WWJ Newsradio 950

(WWJ) A federal judge has granted an at least 14-day temporary restraining order preventing Detroit Police from using a number of tactics when dealing with ‘peaceful protesters.’

U.S. District Court Judge, Laurie J. Michelson, ruled Detroit Police cannot use striking weapons such as batons, chemical agents including tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters, medical support personnel or bystanders during this time. 

Activist group, Detroit Will Breathe, and 14 individuals filed a lawsuit against the City of Detroit, the Detroit Police Department, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and Detroit Police Chief James Craig claiming “excessive use of force”, including  “beatings, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, sound cannons, flash grenades, chokeholds and mass arrests without probable cause;” according to a U.S. District Court Opinion.  

During this two week period, Judge Michelson will decide if a longer injunction is needed.

Speaking live on WWJ, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said this will not change how the department responds.

“It is never our intent to have to engage and use force,” Craig said.

He said it is only done when protesters are engaging in illegal or violent actions; including attacking officers, destroying property or resisting lawful arrest. 

 “Our officers (in the cases we did use force) were being attacked by projectiles, and the narrative coming out of Detroit Will Breathe is they are not aware of any violence and there wasn’t anyone armed with railroad spikes, or wooden hammers,” Craig said,  “That’s not true.”

Detroit Will Breathe and the other plaintiffs argued the officers’ violated their Right To Free Speech and Assembly under the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, according to the court document.   

The City of Detroit, Mayor Duggan, and Chief Craig  have been served, but the remaining officers have not been, according to the court document.

The court document cited an Instagram video where a line of protesters confronted a group of officers in riot gear, while the demonstrators chant “Why are you in riot gear? We don’t see no riots here.”

“Then, suddenly, the officers appear to throw tear gas canisters into the crowd of protesters. The police officers advance on the crowd and grab, shove, and use batons to beat people standing in the front of the group. There is also footage of officers pursuing individuals who are running or walking away from the chaos,” the document read.

The Detroit Police Department said they made 44 arrests that night. 28 of the people lived outside of the city.

Related: Dozens Arrested During Protest Against Federal Agents Coming To Detroit To Combat Gun Violence

Craig told WWJ the videos do not tell the whole story.

“When we made our 44 arrests, they conveniently leave out of their narrative the fact that someone…was armed with this green laser. That’s a very dangerous tool. It could have blinded the pilot in the helicopter,” Craig said.

Judge Michelson agrees it is a delicate situation.

“Demonstrators have a right to protest the actions of the police and other members of the government without fear of government retaliation; police officers, especially in their duty to protect person and property, have difficult and often dangerous jobs that require them to make split-second decisions,” she wrote in the ruling. “Just as not all protestors seek destruction, not all officers seek violence.”

Saturday night marks 100 days or 14 weeks of protests since George Floyd died in May after a Minneapolis police officer held a knee to his neck for nearly 9 minutes. The officer was white. Floyd was African American. 

Detroit Will Breathe is planning to hold a 100 Day March Saturday evening to celebrate the judge’s ruling. They are among a number of activist groups calling for Craig to resign.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Craig said during a graduation ceremony for the department’s newest detectives on Friday. 

Craig said he supports the protests, so long as they remain peaceful and lawful. He added he does not feel “handcuffed” by the ruling.

Related: Detroit Police Chief Ignores Curfew To Let Protesters March On 

“(The ruling) only applies to peaceful protesters….” He told WWJ’s Mike Campbell. “It comes down to one basic thing: we don’t want to use force on peaceful protesters.”

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The U.S. District Court Opinion says Detroit Police cannot do the following under the restraining order. 
  • “ Use striking weapons (including, but not limited to, batons and shields), chemical agents (including, but not limited to, tear gas and pepper spray), or rubber bullets against any individual peacefully engaging in protest or demonstrations who does not pose a physical threat to the safety of the public or police;
  • Deploy chemical agents or a sound cannon against persons peacefully engaging in protest or demonstrations without an audible warning and a reasonable amount of time to disperse;
  • Place in a chokehold or ramming with a vehicle any individual attending a demonstration;
  • Tighten the zip ties or handcuffs placed on any individual to the point that the restraints cause physical injury, including loss of circulation or change in color;
  • Arrest any demonstrators en masse without probable cause.”