Around 6 p.m. EDT, on Wednesday, July 13, 2016, seeking justice for the police brutality and harassment, the peaceful protest and march for Black Lives Matter took to the streets in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The demonstrators were escorted by police officials during the second rally. The protests were recently sparked by the black shootings across the U.S. but it hit home for many people in the community.
Ann Arbor was recently listed among the 37 cities called upon by the well-known hacktivist group Anonymous, for the Day of Rage, that is scheduled to take place on Friday, July 15. The Anonymous group is calling it #FridayofSolidarity.
Although violence may break out on Friday across the nation, the Black Lives Matter protesters in Ann Arbor have vowed not to partake in any such violence. They are strongly encouraging fellow Black Lives Matter to do the same.
The group’s take on violence was made poetically clear by a short black man hunkered on the shoulders of a hulking white man, halting the mob for “a moment of silence for all those who lost their lives due to police injustice. But also a moment of silence for all those murdered in Dallas. Murder is murder,” he continued. “It’s not right. Violence doesn’t solve anything.”
On Tuesday, July 12, there was an estimated 200 people supporting the Black Lives Matter protest. On Wednesday, local papers suggested that there were around 700 protesters filing down the streets. However, local police authorities at the event and those in attendance unanimously agreed there were “at least 1,000” in the crowd.
According to Eric Krawczak, one of the many demonstration leaders, none of the Ann Arbor newspapers bothered to come out the first day. “There was no coverage whatsoever,” said Krawczak. It took persistent calls from him on Wednesday to make sure the local newspapers were aware of the Black Lives Matter movement in their backyard.
There were many who jumped into the thick of things from the sidewalks, cafés, bars, restaurants, etc. when they saw the giant demonstration rolling through. Many people both black and white were yelling thank you to the Black Lives Matter crowd and cheering on the courage of what they were doing. Many were not.
One bystander at a well-known outdoor bar said, the line looked to be “a mile long,” before commenting on how they were obstructing his peace. He called the protesters, “A bunch of a-holes and idiots. All stuffed on top of each other like fish in a barrel. And doing what, exactly?” This diatribe was directed at the women across from him. He continued slurping the rest of his bucket-sized margarita before shooing away any reporters who might have definitely heard.
He was not alone regarding the protest, as there were a handful of the drivers in cars yelling obscenities at the police controlling traffic and at those marching down Washington Street. They were shouting “get these people off the streets.” Many of the drivers were laying on their horns.
Angie, a recent University of Michigan grad and local freelance photographer at the scene, said that before coming to the event she was at work and had been “bombarded with complaints.” Customers were grumbling about the disturbances “these people” were making. She paused, then repeated, “These people. Like they’re useless animals.” Angie used air quotes to emphasize her words.
An officer, who was asked about any disturbances or complaints, answered by assuring that there had not been any reports thus far. Although, the white officer next to him and his three other white colleagues hovering next to their police motorcycles outside a pub that the protesters passed minutes before, called the event a “nuisance,” under his breath. Another of the huddled officers agreed by saying “I wish they’d all just go home.”
While speaking with the officers, the one who previously called the Black lives Matter protest a nuisance, commented without making any attempt not to hide his disdain, “I can’t believe they’re all making a national problem now our problem.”
Chants of “Black Lives Matter” echoed throughout Downtown. Other chants like “Hey, Hey. Ho, Ho. These racists got to go,” Many more shouted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “No Justice, No peace.” There were some that were somewhat less appropriate, but nothing profane.
Some of the Black Lives Matter protestors held signs that read:
- Who do I call when the murderer wears a badge?
- Police Department of America… Check your bias. Quit Profiling.
- This whole system is guilty.
- Shut down AmeriKKKa.
- Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.
There were a plethora of other signs, many of which had “Black Lives Matter,” printed across them. Many had names of those who have been killed by police brutality. Some victims were from the area, the state or direct relations to those marching.
Aura Rosser, one of Ann Arbor’s most infamous fatal police shootings, was represented by many signs. Her name and picture could be seen on every block of Ann Arbor well before the Black Lives Matter protest. “Justice for Aura Rosser,” is written outside the courthouse every night, and every morning it is washed away.
The chanting silenced when the Black lives Matter protesters reached the steps of the university library. Graduate students filled the steps and a crowd formed behind them. There were so many people present that binoculars were needed to see who was speaking. A sudden flash rainstorm sent a many people away, but the speeches continued.
There were personal stories of police harassment, powerful poetry and an hour of Black Lives Matter speakers preaching love and unity. One speech began with, “Growing up in a poor neighborhood, the only time we saw the police is when they came to harass or arrest us.” He has to gather his composure before continuing to state, “Obviously, that’s going to create fear and anger towards them.”
He finished with the story of how he was affected, then concluded saying that when there is no justice or peace, it does not warrant the use violence. His was a common message throughout the night.
The next speaker was able to get the crowd going during his monolog referring to the peaceful Black Lives Matter they had constructed. “The revolution is going to begin right here,” he opened. “It’s going to be peace just like this. We don’t want resistance; we want this right here.”
The final speaker made it clear that this was a community-led group. That there was no organizational involvement, including those in charge of the Black Lives Matter movement throughout the country. “Anyone can do this,” he stated. “And that’s why we all should be.”
By T. Aaron DeGeorge
Edited by Cathy Milne
Interview: July 13, 2016; Ann Arbor Police Department
Interview: July 13, 2016; Eric Krawczak
Interview: July 13, 2016; Ricky “Batman” Evans
Interview: July 13, 2016; Mariah Heibbner
Featured Image Courtesy of Alyssa May Hart – Used With Permission
Top Image and Second Inset Images Courtesy of Maxine Biwer – Used With Permission
First Inset Image Courtesy of Lovida Roach – Used With Permission
Third Imset Image Courtesy of Melissa Kalfayan – Unsed With Permission