On Saturday an anti-racist demonstration in Shelby Township, Michigan was brutally repressed by the police. According to a video posted online several dozen police turned out in full riot gear and riot shields and beat and assaulted protesters before arresting several of them. Many of those arrested were thrown to the ground and there are reports that officers reportedly kneeled on their necks while they were being restrained. One woman, a photographer, was stripped down to her underwear in the middle of the street before being searched and arrested. Another demonstrator who was arrested has reportedly been hospitalized with a concussion. Meanwhile, Shelby Township Police are currently holding and threatening to press felony charges against at least six protesters including: Jessica Nadeau-Mayer, Cameron Rye, David Mitchell, Samantha Phillips, James Deininger, and Left Voice collaborator Tristan Taylor.
The demonstration was called by several anti-racist and anti-police organizations including 2020 SHIFT and Detroit Will Breath, which has been organizing large and powerful rallies in Detroit since shortly after the killing of George Floyd in late May. Activists from Detroit Will Breath had joined Shelby Township activists in solidarity with their demands for the resignation of the Chief of Police, Robert Shelide, who had been suspended in June for making racist and threatening remarks against Black Lives Matter and anti-police protesters on social media. In one tweet Sheriff Shelide called BLM protesters “Wild savages” and wrote: “I wish to God I would have been there. Body bags for these vicious subhumans.” He later added: “We have lost the country to bottom feeders, savages, and weak anarchists.” Despite these disgusting and violent remarks, Shelide was reinstated less than one month later after apologizing for his comments.
These arrests and the violence against these protesters is yet another example of the way that police departments across the country have violently and oppressively responded to the Black Lives Matter protests that have not stopped since May. Further the threat of felony charges for merely demonstrating is a clear attempt to intimidate and repress future protest. Shelby Township is an almost exclusively white town, about one hour from Detroit, and the response of the Shelby Township police — which threatened to arrest protesters even before they arrived, and then carried through on that threat — shows once again that the police are an inherently racist institution used to protect the wealthy, control working people, and enforce the brutal regime of racial oppression upon which capitalism is built.
It is more urgent than ever that the Left, the labor movement, anti-racist and community organizations demand throughout the country an end to such racist repression and freedom for all political prisoners and protesters arrested by the police. Left Voice stands in solidarity with these protesters and all of those oppressed by the police across the world everyday. We demand the immediate release of all of those who were arrested and that all charges be dropped against them.
Detroit Will Breath and Shift 2020 have set up an Action Network petition here