‘Justice for Renisha’
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
Hundreds of metro Detroiters rallied outside of the Dearborn Heights Police Department on the evening of Nov. 7, calling for the arrest of a Dearborn Heights resident for the shooting-death of a 19-year-old Detroit woman seeking help after a car accident.
On Nov. 2, Renisha McBride reportedly knocked on the door of the resident — whose identity is being withheld — for help after having the accident. The 54-year-old man claims he thought McBride was an intruder. He shot and killed her, while she was standing on his porch.
No charges have been made, and citizens, seeking justice for Renisha, are outraged. “I don’t have all of the facts about what happened, but I’m outraged that a 19-year-old was shot in the face,” said dream hampton, an author and activist who helped organize the rally along with Illana “Invincible” Weaver. “And no one has been arrested. I understand this story is unfolding; I’m disappointed the press often just reprints press releases from police departments.”
Dearborn Heights police have offered few details in the case, even changing their story as to how the young African American woman was killed, while seeking help in a predominately white neighborhood. Police made an arrest for the killing, but the person has since been released.
McBride left her Detroit home on the evening of Nov. 1, later suffering a car accident at Bramel and Majestic on the westside at approximately 1:30 a.m. Her cell phone battery was dead. Unable to call for help, it is reported she began knocking on doors for help. At some point she crossed Warren, wandering six blocks to the home on Outer Drive where she was killed.
Initial press reports suggest the police have changed the details of the killing they shared with McBride’s family.
“We need transparency from this department,” said hampton. “The person who shot Renisha McBride is not a rape victim, (he does) not deserve to have (his) identity protected. (He is) an adult who has a shotgun, and if (he) did it by accident, I understand that is a manslaughter charge. (He) absolutely needs to be responsible for (his) weapon.”
According to the 2010 US census, 86.1 percent of Dearborn Heights is white, and only 7.9 percent of the city is Black. McBride’s death and the lack of information from the police department in a city with a vast majority white population touches the racial divide of metro Detroit. Citizens are calling for justice.
Attorneys for the Dearborn Heights shooter have claimed the shooting is justified, based on state law. The State of Michigan has the same Stand Your Ground law that supported the Florida acquittal of George Zimmerman this year in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. After his acquittal, public demonstrations were made this year in Michigan to repeal the state law to protect against a similar unjust ruling.
National policy advisors have reviewed Stand Your Ground laws as exhibiting a great deal of racial disparity in prosecution. John Roman, a senior fellow at the Justice Policy Center of the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based economic and social policy research center, testified before the U.S. Senate that there is a direct relationship between the race of the shooter and the victim, and the rate that courts rule a homicide justifiable. White shooters of Black victims are 11 times more likely to have a killing ruled as justified nationwide, and he said a disparity exists for states with Stand Your Ground laws.
At the rally, youth held signs demanding “Justice for Renisha.” Siwatu-Salama Ra, 22, spoke on behalf of the Detroit Youth Educators Alliance, an organization within the East Michigan Environmental Action Council that helps young men and women ages 14-22 engage with their community. “You have young women, young men constantly being portrayed as something bad, as something that you’re supposed to watch out for,” said Ra. “And I’m here because that is not the case. Here was an innocent young baby.”
Ra pleaded with those in attendance to continue the fight for justice for Renisha even after the rally. “I ask that you do not let this senseless crime just make you emotional right here today but tomorrow or the next day. Let the fight continue every day because we will continue to be profiled and labeled as bad people, as killers and as murderers when we’re constantly being murdered and taken out of our community.”