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A Detroit police officer who drove his SUV through a swarming mob of protesters Sunday night believed he was being fired at, according to Police Chief James Craig, as video of the incident went viral online.
“Detroit Police Department drove into 10-12 protesters including myself. Multiple people are going to the hospital,” a user named “Activist Ethan Ketner” wrote on Twitter, posting a video of the incident.
Detroit Police Department drove into 10-12 protesters including myself. Multiple people are going to the hospital. #NoJusticeNoPeace #detroitpolice #GeorgeFloyd #BreonnaTayor #PoliceBrutality pic.twitter.com/etj3a6ejzN
— Activist Ethan Lucas (@DJEazyTwist) June 29, 2020
In the short clip, scores of people can be seen surrounding the police vehicle before it surges forward then stops quickly a couple of times, apparently in an effort to shed protesters who had clung to the vehicle’s hood, before speeding off.
Other users posted additional video of the incident.
While many on social media panned the incident as an abusive and dangerous act by the officer, during a press conference Monday Craig played a video from the police SUV’s dashcam showing protesters mobbing the vehicle, the Detroit News reported.
Craig told reporters that the officer believed “they were being fired upon.” He also described some of the people involved as “agitators” who were initiating violence against officers.
“What’s in the officer’s mind … of course in their mind… they believe they could be shot. Because of that, they had to take forth evasive action,” Craig said, adding that the rear back window of a police vehicle was “busted out.”
Some of those involved, however, were not satisfied with Craig’s explanation.
“I am angry,” Trendel Anderson, 23, who said he was nearly very seriously injured by the officer’s actions, told the Detroit News. “I want justice.”
The paper reported that more than 350 people had gathered to demonstrate Sunday evening.
On Monday, another 300 or so people met at the Detroit Police Department’s Fourth Precinct to listen to the stories of people who claimed to have been involved in the demonstrations the night before. They said that the protest was peaceful, despite video clearly showing protesters mobbing the police vehicle.
“We will not be intimidated,” Gabriela Alcazar, an organizer with the coalition of groups that marched Sunday, said. “We will not accept more life lost to police violence.”
Craig said the department had opened an investigation into the actions of the officer but also were looking into the actions of protesters on the scene, adding that the “aggressors were targeting” cops.
He added that the officer could not simply remain in place because about 20 to 30 protesters were demonstrating violent behavior and some of them were attempting to get into the vehicle.
The chief noted further that there were several reports of protesters being armed with hammers and that one point the back window of the vehicle in question was broken out with a skateboard.
“If it were serious enough where I thought the officer’s actions were improper, I would have made another type of decision … though it was a bad situation, it could have been a lot worse,” Craig noted.
The chief said that a few hours after the protest began, police attempted to get demonstrators to re-direct their march away from a busy highway. But they refused to follow officers’ instructions, and several then surrounded the lead police vehicle.
Scores of videos posted online since protests began following the death of George Floyd have shown rioters attacking police vehicles with hammers, skateboards, glass bottles, and other devices, putting officers inside at risk.
One Detroit city councilwoman, Raquel Castañeda-López, called on the police department to conduct a thorough review but appears to have already decided the officer’s action was wrong.
“If you see something like this happen, it’s egregious. It’s completely inappropriate,” she said. “Our right and our responsibility as council is to investigate, to call the departments to the table, to hold a public conversation so that there’s transparency and accountability. Our track record is to always call out injustice when we see it.”
She also criticized Chief Craig for describing some protesters as “agitators.”
“I found his language condescending and offensive to all the people out there to fight for systemic change and to fight for racial justice,” she said, according to the Detroit News.
During an appearance on WDET Monday morning, Mayor Mike Duggan would not condemn the officer’s actions. He said when cops are faced with situations were people are banging and climbing on their vehicles, “what are you supposed to do?”
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