Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Detroit Activists Smash Former Police Chief’s Press Conference

Detroit activists shut down the former police chief’s press conference. James Craig was slated to launch his campaign for governor, but instead activists spoke out against police violence and for Black lives while Craig was forced to leave.

Jessica Prozinski

September 21, 2021
Facebook Twitter Share

The following article was written by Jessica Prozinski, a participant in the protest.

We know who James Craig is and who he’s always been. He is the former chief of the Detroit police who hospitalized our comrades over and over again last summer for protesting against racist police brutality. Craig’s vocation was making Detroit safe for rich white developers while treating the Black majority as though their lives meant nothing.

Craig’s lifework was being the hired gun of politicians — Democrat and Republican alike — who have been bought and paid for by business interests. This includes the Democratic Party Detroit city council and Democratic Party mayor Mike Duggan, who rubber-stamped Craig’s racist and brutal policies. It includes Democratic Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, who recently gave $7.5 million — that was supposed to be for fighting Covid — to the reckless Detroit Police Department.

Now Craig hopes to run as the Republican Party’s nominee for governor. On Tuesday, September 14, Craig showed the world how disastrous a campaign launch could be. The Detroit MetroTimes called it “a complete clusterfuck” on their front page:

Craig envisioned himself announcing his run for Michigan governor as a Trump Republican on beautiful Belle Isle with the cityscape in the background.

What actually happened was that protesters against racist police brutality — many of whom had been personally beaten, arrested, and hospitalized by Craig’s police the previous summer — made their own speeches from behind Craig’s podium.

Craig did eventually attend his own campaign event, during which he was inaudible but could be seen mouthing the words, “I am running for governor.” Thirty-eight seconds later he was gone. He was chased into a waiting SUV by protesters jeering, “Run, Jimmy, run!”

From there, he ended up at what activist group Detroit Will Breathe described in a tweet as “the balcony of a gentrification building.”

Craig’s epic smackdown was a masterclass on how to take over the press conference of a class enemy.

Detroit Will Breathe (DWB) and Michigan Liberation were not satisfied with simply ruining the event for Craig. They took it a step further, commandeering the press conference and speaking to the dozens of members of the media about the damage Craig has inflicted on Detroit and about their own demands.

Jumping onto a picnic table and speaking through a bullhorn, DWB leader Lloyd Simpson said,

This is a man who directed his department to brutalize protesters taking a stand against systemic racism and police brutality. A man who, at the TCF [center] last November, embraced racist Trump supporters who came to intimidate and disenfranchise voters in the Blackest city in the nation. A man who called the officer who executed Hakim Littleton with a shot to the back of the head an “American hero.”

After Simpson spoke, protesters sang chants written specifically for the event by Detroit musician and DWB leader Jae Bass: “James Craig is full of hate, we won’t let him win our state!” “No justice, no peace. James Craig is still the police!”

Then protesters occupied the space directly behind the podium as Bass announced, “So, this is our press conference now.”

While Bass was speaking, the handful of Craig supporters began to weakly chant, “Craig! Craig!” but the chant petered out after six “Craig”s.

Craig’s subsequent scheduled campaign stop in Flint was also canceled after the Detroit debacle.

Craig tried the “paid protesters” trope on a reporter from WDET with unfortunate results: the reporter asked him how he knew the protesters were paid.

“I don’t know, but I gotta believe,” Craig replied. When the reporter pressed him further, he replied, “I feel good about it. I feel like they were paid. I don’t have any hard evidence, but — ”

“Is that how you operate as an officer, then?” the reporter asked. “You don’t have any hard evidence, but …”

As Detroit Will Breathe pointed out in a statement to Deadline Detroit, “The only person there seeking to get paid for their politics was Craig.”

Ironically, some protesters who did not have a recreation passport had to pay $12 to attend the protest, since Belle Isle is now a state park.

Photo by Jessica Prozinski

It has to be especially damaging to former chief Craig’s reputation that his campaign failed so spectacularly on … security?

The protest was publicly organized by Detroit Will Breathe on Facebook.

Craig, who in July proclaimed that, “What I can’t respect is a victimhood mentality,” then went on Tucker Carlson’s show Tuesday night to play the victim. “[As] you saw in the video, it became very tense,” he told Carlson, adding,

So you know what, we need to hold Governor Whitmer accountable for this. She oversees the Michigan State Police and the Department of [Natural] Resources that covers the island. I know this is not accidental. This is not accidental.

The DNR and Whitmer administration wasted no time in responding:

Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy spoke to the Detroit News Tuesday, adding,

This is a baseless attack. Here are the facts: Craig’s team was proactively contacted by the Department of Natural Resources to ensure they had the proper permit for the event. They affirmed crowd control would be the campaign’s responsibility, and law enforcement was immediately dispatched when a problem arose.

The Michigan State Police told the Detroit News that a sergeant was sent to Belle Isle after a 911 call, but when he arrived, he found 20 peaceful protesters not breaking any laws, so he left.

After the event, Detroit Will Breathe issued an official statement, which reads in part,

The people of Detroit are demanding a new vision of public safety where we invest resources into the needs of residents rather than the criminalization of Black people and the expansion of violent policing.

In the days after the event, the scandal and derision has only grown.

Jim Kiertzner of Detroit Channel WXYZ observed, “This was not the launch James Craig wanted. I’ve been doing news in Michigan for 38 years and 48 years total. I’ve never seen anything like this in a race for statewide office.”

Our movement will continue to call out Craig’s racist and violent police practices that brought harm to Black people in Detroit. The movement must also make sure that we call out both political parties, Democrats and Republicans, who continue to defend and fund the police who harm and repress Black and Brown communities, and repress any struggle, including the struggle of the workers against their bosses, that seeks to win power to the oppressed.

Facebook Twitter Share

United States

Aaron Bushnell, who self-immolated in protest of the genocide in Palestine.

Aaron Bushnell’s Cry of Despair in the Face of Genocide

The media and international community was profoundly affected by the self-immolation of U.S. soldier Aaron Bushnell in protest against the genocide in Gaza. His death and desperate act of protest starkly shows the cruelty and brutality of U.S. Imperialism and Zionism.

Enzo Tresso

February 28, 2024

The U.S. is Putting Journalism on Trial: Interview with Kevin Gosztola

Left Voice spoke with journalist Kevin Gosztola about the political nature behind the trial of Julian Assange, the threat that extradition poses to international press freedom, and how the Biden administration has advanced other attacks on press freedom.

Samuel Karlin

February 28, 2024
Three activists stand together while one activist holds up an "uncommitted" sign with the word "vote" written on it many times. In the left side of the picture another activist holds a sign that says "abandon Genocide Joe"

Don’t Vote Uncommitted — Commit to Breaking with the Democrats

Tapping into deep anger with President Biden, the left wing of the Democratic Party is urging Michigan voters to vote “uncommitted” in the primary election. But this strategy funnels progressives’ energy back into the Democratic party when we need political independence from the parties supporting the genocide in Gaza.

Brian H. Silverstein

February 27, 2024

The Organic Crisis in 2024: This Year’s Election Is a Battle for the Hearts and Minds of U.S. Workers

The battle between Trump and Biden is being shaped by a crisis of the political regime, requiring the intervention of both the judiciary and the union bureaucracy. The battle for the presidency is a battle for the working class and a battle over which approach to imperialism is best for competing with China and reestablishing US hegemony. As usual, the Democrats are taking up the cudgel of democratic rights in order to rally disaffected voters.

Sybil Davis

February 23, 2024


Black UAW workers, a black-and-white image, holding signs that say "UAW ON STRIKE."

To Achieve Black Liberation, Class Independence Is Key

A united, working-class party fighting oppression is our only hope for Black liberation.

Tristan Taylor

February 29, 2024
A banner reads "Real Wages Or We Strike" at a rally for CUNY, which is experiencing cuts from Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul.

CUNY Faculty and Staff Have Gone One Year Without a Contract — It’s Time to Strike

CUNY workers have been without a new contract for a full year and the university has yet to make any economic offers. It's time to take action.

Olivia Wood

February 29, 2024
Florida governor Ron DeSantis stands at a podium that reds "Higher Education Reform"

U.S. Higher Education Is Being Gutted, but We Can Fight Back

Across the United States, higher education is being gutted through program eliminations and budget cuts. We must prepare to fight these attacks with everything we have.

Olivia Wood

February 28, 2024

Berlinale: Filmmakers Say What the Rest of the World is Saying

At the Berlinale film festival, Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers called for equality and peace. German politicians want to ban such hateful talk.

Nathaniel Flakin

February 28, 2024