While mayors and prosecutors across the country dropped the overwhelming majority of cases brought against racial-justice demonstrators last summer, the city of Detroit took a different tack, opting to push many citations to the courts, where most were ultimately tossed by judges. That's despite the fact that the city saw demonstrations more peaceful than elsewhere in the country, where arson and looting occurred.
The finding, from a new analysis by The Guardian, underscores the hardline approach Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's office took toward demonstrators who gathered nightly last summer. Judges had to intervene in this jurisdiction, unlike others, dismissing hundreds of citations for disorderly conduct, loitering, and curfew violations, citing a lack of evidence. Just a handful of cases have not been dismissed, including those against the leaders of the group Detroit Will Breathe.
From The Guardian:
(City officials around the country) did not file charges for nearly all low-level offenses, like disobeying curfews, while they most often pursued cases with strong evidence of more serious crimes, like assault or looting ... Police sent citations to a patchwork of agencies and departments in different cities where prosecutors, mayors or city attorneys largely made the call to drop charges.
Mayors in every city except Detroit dropped all citations over which they had jurisdiction. The administration of Mayor Mike Duggan, a former prosecutor, pursued a high number of low-level misdemeanor charges or ordinance violations, even though the demonstrations were largely peaceful. But district court judge Larry Williams Jr dismissed more than 100 cases because police (failed) to provide basic evidence, such as body-cam footage.
... Instead of continuing to attempt to prosecute with shoddy evidence, the city earlier this year dropped nearly 300 more citations, but has still pursued dozens of charges against protest organizers.
Among those still facing charges is the Detroit Will Breathe organizer Tristan Taylor, who said the mass arrests across the country are “all about intimidation” of people who vocally oppose police brutality ...
The mass arrests were also part of a public relations campaign by Duggan and the Detroit police chief, James Craig, to paint the protesters as violent agitators and undermine their messaging, a strategy used by police in cities across the nation, said Tyler Crawford, the National Lawyers Guild director of mass defense.
“What they try to do is spin it and say ‘Look at how unlawful protesters are as is evidenced by all of these arrests that we’ve made,’” he said. “Then they hope people have stopped paying attention after six, 10, 12 months when prosecutors say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to drop these charges because these people shouldn’t have been arrested.’”
A spokesman for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and lead city attorney Lawrence Garcia did not immediately reply to a request for comment from Deadline Detroit.