Update: Detroit Cops Fire Tear Gas to Disperse Protesters After 8 p.m. Curfew

May 31, 2020, 11:10 PM by  Jack Thomas

Update, 9:15 p.m. Sunday: Detroit officers in riot gear and gas masks fired tear gas tonight to disperse racial justice protesters in front of police headquarters well over 30 minutes after a new curfew began.

Third Avenue shortly after 8:30 p.m. (Photos: Michael Lucido)

Loud booms could be heard and clouds of smoke were visible as the crowd ran off.

Shortly after 8 p.m., police officials announced on bullhorns that it was time to go. But some protesters, about 200 or fewer, stayed in the area on Third Avenue near Howard Street. They were condemning police brutality, spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last Monday. 

People ran down Third to escape. Some people in the crowd offered milk and saline solution to protesters to counter a burning feeling on their face and eyes. Deadline Detroit photographer Michael Lucido was among those gassed.

Some protesters who stuck around were arrested. Also arrested was Detroit News reporter Christine MacDonald, who said she was filming the unfolding scene from a distance and not interfering with authorities, but was arrested by police anyway, the Detroit Free Press reports.  McDonald reported she was only briefly detained.

Detroit Rev. W. J. Rideout tells Deadline Detroit he was trying to work out a peaceful end to the night with police when a group of people started throwing projectiles at officers.  He said "these people were not from the city of Detroit." 

He said that's when police starting shooting tear gas, and he got caught up in the middle of it.

"I almost choked to death and thought I lost my eyesight," he said. 

For hours before, the protest was peaceful. More than 1,000 protesters marched through Campus Martius and north on Woodward Avenue past Comerica Park and the Fox Theatre before turning left at the Fisher Freeway and eventually heading south and stopping at police headquarters on 3rd Avenue. 

Along the route, they chanted "No Justice No Peace," "I Can't Breath," and the name George Floyd.

After the crowd dispersed Detroit Police Chief James Craig said his department showed "tremendous patience." 

"Even when being pelted with projectiles, they didn't overreact today," he said.

He said the crowd was given several directives to leave the area before tear gas was fired.

"We're patient. We don't want to rush it," the chief said. "But when my officers are in the face of signficant danger we have to act on that quickly. So with that said, we're certainly not going to compromise the safely of any of the protesters."   He said no officers were injured Sunday night.

He said he continues to support the message of protesters. "I feel like they feel."

But he said the department cannot ignore property damage and public safety issues.

In response to a question about excessive force by police on Saturday night, he said the department is investigating one of allegations that was caught on video.

"I take any allegations of misconduct seriously," he said, adding that anyone who feels they were treated unjust should report it to his department. 

Protesters on Sunday night at headquarters (Photo: Michael Lucido)

From Earlier Sunday 

Detroit is enforcing a nine-hour curfew after two nights of clashes and 144 arrests. Street gatherings are banned between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., starting Sunday.

It will continue as long as Police Chief James Craig "feels that there is a threat from people outside this community," Mayor Mike Duggan said at a Sunday press conference. "Hopefully it will not be long."

Demonstrators outside police headquarters Sunday.

The latest march against police brutality and racial injustice began late Sunday afternoon downtown. Participants who remain after 8 p.m. may be arrested after warnings to leave, said Craig.

"Please stay home," Duggan said, adding that he was speaking to non-Detroiters in particular.

People travelling to or from work, heading home or dealing with an emergency are exempt curfew, according to Duggan. Buses will keep running. 

Protest marches by thousands of people Friday and Saturday against police brutality began peacefully, but became unruly late each night. Police made 84 arrests Saturday and 60 the previous night, the chief said.

"Yesterday, many of these [protest] leaders asked people to protest in their own backyard," Duggan said. "I really had hoped that request would be honored, but ... I have to act to protect the people of this city."

Marchers approach Detroit Public Safety Headquarters Sunday evening. 


At The Detroit News, Sarah Rahal describes the second night of trouble:

After 10 p.m. Saturday, some demonstrators headed to Detroit police headquarters. Some threw objects at officers, including small bricks, M-80 fireworks and rocks. Eight police cars sustained various damages and some portable toilets were overturned.

The crowd was pushed back to Third Street and Bagley, where many remained to verbally confront officers, leading to a large string of arrests.

Police started throwing tear gas around 10:30 p.m. and dispersed most of the crowd, though at least one large group stayed around through midnight Sunday. ... Detroit Police also launched tear gas and rubber bullets at a group of journalists and others near protesters on Michigan Avenue and Griswold.

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