Sam McCann, Neighborhood Defender Service, (703) 867-1972, (SMccann@ndsny.org)
Lillian Diallo, Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar Association, (313) 719-8899
Casey Rocheteau, Detroit Justice Center, (313) 499-0826, (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Desiree M. Ferguson, National Conference of Black Lawyers, (313) 319-8259, (email@example.com)
Cait De Mott Grady, National Lawyers Guild Michigan, (607) 216-2043 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(DETROIT, MI) – National Lawyers Guild Michigan, Detroit Justice Center, National Conference of Black Lawyers, Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit, and the Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar Association issued the following statement on legal support for protestors:
“Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery were killed because this country criminalizes Blackness and refuses to reckon with its history. The protests in Detroit and across the country, catalyzed by police killings, give voice to the experiences of millions of Black, Brown and Indigenous people across the country. The entrenched, systemic racism in all aspects of our state – from our police force to our housing system to our healthcare and beyond – is at the root of the righteous anger manifest on our streets today.
As of Wednesday, June 3, 2020, more than 400 protesters have been arrested by the Detroit Police for participation in the protests that followed these police murders. The right of the people to assemble and create a more just world is firmly enshrined in our Constitution. Since the pandemic began, we have seen Michiganders exercise their right to protest and assembly. As members of Detroit’s defense community, we are here to assist in the representation of these protesters. The organizations listed above are working together to ensure that every arrested protester has a world-class attorney to advocate on their behalf. Detroiters: know that we are here to stand with you and represent those who are arrested for exercising their rights to speak out against the unbroken legacy of institutional racism and violence brought on by the state and law enforcement for generations.
There is far too frequently viral footage of Black, Brown and Indigenous people being murdered at the state’s hands. This brazen, racist murder, and the impunity with which it happens, is meant to grind us down and beat us into submission. That is what makes this moment so remarkable. The people under the thumb of this brutality are not numb to its oppression, are not beaten into submission – they feel it acutely. And they are standing up in the face of continuing police brutality demanding that the humanity and dignity of Black lives be recognized in order to build a just world.
We do not need modest reform; we need radical change. We need to divest from the police and invest in community programs that support those the state has targeted. We need to change the courts and abandon our broken bail system that enshrines a two-tiered legal system: one for the rich (and mostly white) and one for the poor (and predominately Black). We demand an end to racialized policing and surveillance. We demand an end to the criminalization of Blackness and poverty. We call for ending the so-called “War on Drugs,” which is nothing other than a tool for mass incarceration of Black and Brown people. End all mandatory sentences and mandatory minimum sentencing, decriminalize simple drug possession, reinstate good time and disciplinary credits. Invest in policies and practices that prevent crime and heal and restore those who offend and the offended.
As members of Detroit’s defense community, we bear witness to the violence of structural racism every day. The content of these videos and reports are not new to us, nor to our clients. The injustice and racism at the root of Floyd’s murder, and those of thousands of other Black and Brown people at the state’s hands, is the same injustice and racism that funnels our neighbors into jails and prisons for decades, that drives mass incarceration, that plunders Black and Brown wealth, that fuels our deportation machine, and that leaves our Black and Brown neighbors more vulnerable to COVID-19 than our white neighbors.
The programs we run are explicitly designed to confront and battle these systems and find justice. We will redouble our efforts in these fights. Detroiters fighting for justice in the streets: we stand in solidarity with you and the more just world you are building. As you go into the streets, know we are at your back, ready to defend you, so we can keep fighting together.