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Statement From Detroit Will Breathe and Several Other Michigan Groups Against the Repression of the Palestine Movement

Detroit Will Breathe’s statement against the repression we’ve seen unleashed against protesters in the Palestine movement.

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Three Palestine protesters hold a Palestinian flag aloft
Photo Credit: Violet Klocko

In light of the brutal attacks on the Palestine movement in recent days and weeks, Left Voice will be re-publishing the statements of different groups against the repression. Today we share the statement from Detroit Will Breathe, a group which grew out of Black Lives Matter mobilizations in Detroit, the National Lawyers Guild — Detroit, and several other Michigan based groups. For a full list of signatories, check here.

Stop the Attacks on the Right to Protest! 

The right to protest is under attack in Detroit. 

Over the last several months, non-violent protests organized in support of Palestine have been systematically harassed and persecuted by the Detroit Police Department (DPD). The police have not only targeted participants of the protests and protest leaders, but also legal observers (LO) belonging to the National Lawyers Guild–an organization whose role is to document the actions of law enforcement, especially those that could later have criminal or civil legal consequences such as any arrest or detainment, use of force, intimidating display of force, denial of access to public spaces like parks and sidewalks, and any other behavior that appears to restrict demonstrators’ ability to express their political views.

One of the most recent incidents of police harassment on April 15th resulted in the persecution and arrest of protesters by Detroit police during the disruption of a car caravan action. DPD issued at least 38 citations and impounded 18 cars that participated in the caravan.

On April 12th, Michigan Social Workers for Palestine (MS4P) held a rally and march at the offices of Democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters in support of Palestine and in solidarity with Palestinian social workers. Eight participants, including LOs and marshals, were detained and issued arbitrary citations and a misdemeanor by DPD while attempting to collect their belongings and return to their cars.

These instances of repression follow similar intimidation tactics used by police against protestors on March 2nd in downtown Detroit, as well as in other Michigan cities such as Ann Arbor, Warren, and Bloomfield Hills, and on college campuses such as the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.

Currently, we are witnessing national outrage against the brutal repression of student encampments and protests at college campuses across this country. Students leading and participating in these protests are making demands that challenge the status quo, and as a result, they are being punished with police brutality and expulsions. Simultaneously, the frequency and intensity of harassment by police against protestors in Detroit continues to increase. 

As shown during the 2020 uprisings, DPD is very capable of ramping up repression similar to and beyond that which student activists at encampments are experiencing. The continued police crack-down on protests is a method used to silence dissent and take away constitutional rights. Furthermore, the specific targeting of LOs is a way of preventing the truth of their activities from being documented, and punishes LOs for ensuring that the right to protest is protected.

Detroiters have a long and proud history of taking the streets in protest. This escalating police response is an attempt to minimize the ways that the working class and oppressed are able to express our power and dissent. This cannot be tolerated. There is a blatant hypocrisy in a system of policing which claims to protect and uphold the safety of the public, and in turn uses violence and other nefarious means to repress protestors who use their constitutional rights to demand an end to genocide.

Therefore, we the undersigned, condemn police repression everywhere and call for all charges against protesters and legal observers be dropped and for DPD to stop intruding on the rights of pro-Palestinian protesters. We unapologetically support the students and community members taking a stand in student encampments and other protests nationwide. We have the right to organize and resist all forms of oppression. Together, we can work towards creating a more just world. Stand with us in this important fight.

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