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Detroiters participate in National Moment of Silence in response to violent deaths of unarmed victims

Detroit area residents participate in National Moment of Silence Aug. 14.

Detroit residents participate in National Moment of Silence Aug. 14. STEVE FURAY PHOTO

By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen 

DETROIT — Hundreds of Detroiters joined at Hart Plaza Aug. 14 for a moment of silence in response to the recent deaths of Michael Brown, John Crawford, Eric Garner, and other unarmed victims, as a result of police brutality. These cases have caused national outrage due to injustice and the lack of respect for the lives of Black men and women.

“I think people,… are outraged and incensed at the lack of sensitivity on the part of police departments, officers in the course of their duties, I’m not sure if they’re afraid and they’re doing this out of fear or hatred,” Baxter Jones told The Michigan Citizen. Jones recently suffered injuries while in police custody after being arrested in protest of the city’s water shutoffs. 

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“But to kill individuals who are unarmed is not something that is going to be tolerated,” said Jones. “And that’s why I’m here and I believe a lot of people are here for the same reason. How can we stand idly by, this could have been my son, my daughter. Our young people don’t have any identities or faces, it’s as if they’re just viewed as a threat, and I don’t understand where this is coming from. It’s either fear or hatred, but whatever the motivation is behind it is, it needs to stop.”

Whitney Syphax Walker, a Detroit poet, educator and community activist, began the moment of silence by listing names of individuals who have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement officials in cities throughout the United States.

“And all of the names that we don’t know, and all of the names that we’ve forgotten, and all of the names that don’t count yet because they haven’t happened,” said Walker. “Everyone is here because we all have respect for life, no matter what that life looks like, no matter what color of skin that life has, we all have respect for life. Everyone here wants to know why the rest of the country doesn’t share that same sentiment.”

The event was attended by many in the media, with cameras clicking while attendees held their silence, some displaying signs demanding justice and respect for their own lives.

“We’ve been silent for too long,” shouted a man’s voice from the crowd, followed by the demand, “Justice for all,” which the crowd then began to chant.

“We’ve been quiet, we’ve been quiet for years,” said Walker. And so many of us are tired of being quiet. So now we’re going to do a little home-going and we’re going to make some noise, for all of the spirits and the souls that have proceeded before us, we’re going to let them know we’re here and we’re with them, and we’re standing in solidarity with them, and we appreciate them and we love them, and we wish them a blessed journey, and we’re gonna fight for them right here.” 

The crowd roared with noise in response to these words, while award-winning Detroit singer Monica Blaire stepped to the microphone to deliver a spiritual song to the crowd.

“I just want to say it’s important to have our eyes, our hearts, our minds, our spirits, our souls open and be aware and allow for an opportunity to really come to the next space, be better as a collective and understand it, we can’t allow things like this to continue to happen in our communities and our homes and in our spaces,” Blaire said before the song. “We have to protect ourselves, and we have to protect each other.”

A brief lineup of speakers that included community members and poets delivered demands for the respect of all life, as well as words of inspiration for those in the neighborhoods who work daily to help bring violence to an end.

“Before we get to all of the political maneuvering and the public policy, some of us inside ourselves have a deep emotional, guttural response to what happened to Mike Brown,” said Rev. David A. Bullock of Great St. Matthew Baptist Church. “And the fact of the matter is that it’s hard to be young and Black inside America.”

He continued, “If we don’t stand up and deal with racism and racial prejudice, we’ll never be able to heal the wounds in this country, until we become real about what’s going on in the United States of America. So it’s one thing to come to a rally, but somebody’s got to leave the rally and say ‘the hell with racism.’”

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