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Beatings in Detroit reveal ‘dual system of compassion’

By Zenobia Jeffries
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Poor education. Unemployment. Encouraged vigilantism. These are the issues responsible for the recent beating of a Clinton Township man in Detroit, says the president of  Michigan National Action Network Charles Williams III.

“We fear more of this can happen,” Williams said at a press conference April 7. “That oppression that causes young men to (beat someone) can put the city in a boiling place. We really need to get to the genesis of these problems.”

On April 2, Steven Utash was, according to police, traveling home from work when he struck a 10-year-old-boy with his vehicle on the city’s east side. When Utash exited the vehicle to check on the child, he was approached and beaten by several teenage  and adult males.

Detroit Police Officer Madera says the case is still under investigation.

“We don’t want to place blame,” Madera told the Michigan Citizen. “Accidents are accidents for a reason.”

Madera said at this point of their investigation, race is not an issue. Utash is white and the child, Black.

“People will say things like that, we will look into that, but it could be the shock of a child being hit,” he said.

Williams says race is also a factor — not only in Detroit, but in the Southeastern Michigan region.

“Race is a contributing factor based on the fact that the ones who committed the crime deal with oppression…,” said Williams. “Until we deal with it and stop promoting policy that draws the line of division further, until we realize there shouldn’t be two Detroits, two standards of services…,” says Williams, there will continue to be negative sometimes violent outcomes.

He presented Opening Day as an example of two Detroits.

“I wonder how brutal law enforcement will be on Belle Isle if someone is found drinking or passes out drunk.”

Williams also criticized Police Chief James Craig for promoting vigilantism.

“The chief has been having national press conferences and interviews where he’s been going around pretty much proposing people to take justice into their own hands, arm (themselves).”

Williams says that’s not the type of law enforcement the city needs.

Detroiters Bill Dickens and Sam Stark, who flanked Williams at the press conference say the conditions in the schools and the city exacerbate the issues.

“The Emergency Manager in the schools and the city pile on and they are insults,” Dickens said. “They’ve wiped out commercial education.”

Stark said the young people who beat Utash apparently did not see much hope for their future.

On April 7, Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Bruce Wimbush Jr., 17, in connection with the beating of Utash. The following day, charges were also brought against Wonzey Saffold, 30, and James Davis, 24.

All are being charged with Assault with Intent to Murder and Assault with Intent to do Great Bodily Harm.

“The facts of this case are unbelievably tragic,” Worthy said in a statement.  “We have charged (these) defendant(s) with a capital offense.”

Worthy said she will not comment further as the investigation is “continuing and widening.”

She is asking anyone with information relevant to the case to call the DPD at 313.596.2260.

A 16-year-old juvenile also alleged in connection with the beating has not been charged, but is in custody of the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Center.

“We’re praying for the family and that Utash pulls through,” Williams told the Michigan Citizen.

Utash and the child were taken to the hospital from the scene. The child has since been released. Utash remains in the hospital being treated for his injuries sustained in the beating.

Some are asking for equal treatment in the investigation.

“The senseless violence must stop. But so must dual system of compassion,” said Michigan NAN political director Sam Riddle. “For example, the father that was killed at the Valero by a group of 10 men. We have not heard of a public outcry or fundraiser for that family.”

Riddle says the lack of outrage over the beating death of 38-year-old Eric Miles April 7 is an example of that dual system: one for whites and one for Blacks.

Miles, a father of two, was beaten and run over by a car on the city’s west side.

“Race should not play a factor but surely it does,” Riddle said. “For example, with McBride and Trayvon Martin, a toxicology test done, but none on the white motorist that hit this the Black child. His vehicle came in contact with another human being. We should have a report. We should reject offhand having a child to blame. Anywhere you see a child you should slow down.”

Riddle said prayers go out to all the victims.

“But we have to move beyond a dual system of compassion. If we’re going to hold our heads in shame, let it be because of the dual system of compassion.”

Madera says the DPD didn’t request a toxicology. “Nothing indicated he needed one,” he said. “That should be a part of the routine process at the hospital.

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