River Days, along with the annual Fireworks display, are billed as family-friendly events showcasing the best of downtown Detroit. Complete with corporate sponsors and media coverage, the signature events mark the beginning of summer for Detroit.
Contrasting one Detroit where leisure and fun are a premium is another where 60 percent of children live in poverty, mass water shutoffs are attracting international attention, and violence is a public health concern.
“Violence amidst the fun,” is how one media outlet described the fights that broke out June 21 during River Days. Several groups of mostly Black teens began fighting Saturday evening and there were reports of gunshots fired.
Multiple videos of fighting teens were shared via social media including one image of a Detroit police officer, gun drawn, and a Black teen on his knees.
Several Instagram hashtags emerged to share the River Days videos and pictures, most had more than 7,000 followers.
In reaction, public officials mobilized to secure downtown, the riverfront and Belle Isle for the annual fireworks show, June 23.
Several law enforcement agencies converged on downtown Detroit to ensure the success of the fireworks. The U.S. Border Patrol, Michigan State police and city police began a coordinated plan to limit access to Detroit’s fireworks.
Access to Hart Plaza and Belle Isle were restricted with a limited number of entry points. The eastern tip of Belle Isle was closed. No cars were allowed on the island until 2 p.m. with a Department of Natural Resources checkpoint at the park’s entry.
A police state is how some described Detroit the night of the fireworks, with hundreds of police officers present and a 6 p.m. curfew in effect for unaccompanied minors under the age of 18.
Half as many attendees attended the fireworks event as last year, and 148 juveniles were detained because of curfew violation and 87 received violations. Parents received $50 tickets when they arrived to pick up their children.
The American Civil Liberties Union issued a letter to city officials objecting to the emergency curfew in effect, calling it unconstitutional.
According to MotorCityMuckracker, the police resources were directed to downtown and the neighborhoods were left without protection:
“In the neighborhoods, where police were already overwhelmed, the emergency calls rolled in at a pace much faster than officers could respond. Between 8 p.m. and midnight, when a bulk of police resources were downtown, officers were called to at least three shootings, seven home invasions, three armed robberies, four arsons, a rape and numerous domestic assaults. …On Tuesday morning, headlines trumpeted the relatively peaceful environment at the fireworks. Nothing was mentioned of the shootings and other neighborhood crimes.”
Instagram hashtags include #riverdaysfights. Full report on police resources at motorcitymuckracker.com.