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 Protest organizer India Harris leads a group of protesters in front of Eastpointe High School May 31 with a chant of “no justice, no peace.”

Protest organizer India Harris leads a group of protesters in front of Eastpointe High School May 31 with a chant of “no justice, no peace.”

Photos by Brendan Losinski


Eastpointe resident organizes protest for racial justice

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published June 2, 2020

 Demonstrators hold up signs and make their voices heard May 31 at a rally in Eastpointe demanding racial justice and equality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota.

Demonstrators hold up signs and make their voices heard May 31 at a rally in Eastpointe demanding racial justice and equality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota.

EASTPOINTE — Eastpointe-area residents joined in the numerous protests that have recently taken place across the country to speak up for racial equality and justice.

The killing of an African American man, George Floyd, by a white police officer in Minnesota sparked a wave of demonstrations calling for the end of crimes believed to be racially motivated and more diligent oversight of how law enforcement utilizes force.

Eastpointe resident India Harris wanted to join her voice to the many calling for action, and wanted to do so in her hometown.

“It’s a protest for police brutality and racial injustice going on in the world today,” said Harris. “Growing up I’ve always wanted to be an activist; I just never figured out how to start that activism. Initially, I travelled to Detroit to join the protest there, but I couldn’t go back and forth, so I figured why not hold one in Eastpointe.”

Harris organized the event, which took place May 31 in front of Eastpointe High School along Gratiot Avenue.

“We want justice for all, equality for all, and we definitely want cops to be arrested for things that aren’t right. Murdering people for the color of their skin isn’t right,” said Harris.

Among those who took part in the protest was Eastpointe resident Alice Pierce.

“The reason I think this protest is so important is because I grew up with a lot of religious persecution here in Eastpointe, and just trying to be a different religion was hard enough,” said Pierce. “I chose to look the way that I look and believe the way I believe, and I can be as outspoken about it all as I want. The people we’re standing for today can’t hide who they are.”

Pierce and many of the protesters said there are many ways local governments and organizations can take action to reduce the likelihood of cases such as George Floyd’s from happening again.

“I definitely would like to see more action taken on mental health, particularly with the police force and the people running our government and schools,” Pierce said. “We need to have those people trained to recognize when an officer might be stressed or is having a moment that can lead him or her to a dangerous place.

“There are certain cues to see when people are starting to get really heated up or they are lost in the moment. (Floyd) was suffocated and there were three officers standing beside the officer who was arresting him. What did those officers miss that allowed this to happen?”

Several Eastpointe police personnel came by the rally to talk with the protesters and discuss the issues with them. Although those on-site did not wish to comment on the protest directly, the department made a post about it later that day on social media.

“We met some nice people at a peaceful protest tonight,” the post stated. “We heard what they had to say and established ways to communicate in the future. Communication is the key to every successful relationship. Thank you to all who attended! It was a productive evening!”

Several local officials also came to the rally to talk with the protesters and voice their support for racial justice and equality.

“We want to continue to seek equality for all,” Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens remarked at the event. “Eastpointe is a family town and we want to make sure it can be a family town for everybody.”

Owens said that Eastpointe, and its Police Department in particular, are trying to take action to prevent the factors that lead to violent events such as the killing of Floyd.

“One thing I’ve been working on is diversity and inclusion in the Police Department,” Owens said. “We want to take action before incidents like this can happen, and be proactive. When our new director (of public safety) came on board about a year ago, one of the first things we talked about was hiring more minorities to police Eastpointe. … This helps our police force better reflect our community and helps those who are not of African American descent be better trained and know the experiences of those who may not look like them and how they can interact with them.”

Harris stressed that although Floyd was the inspiration for action, the movement has to be one that protects all African Americans.

“When people say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ they are including all black lives,” she explained. “This isn’t just about black heterosexual men, but black women, black children, trans black people, LGBT+ black people; they are all included in the movement.”

She added that although some people may not be comfortable protesting, they can take action in other ways in order to help.

“Contact your local government,” she said. “You can spread the word on social media. You can help the fund for protesters being arrested. Even if you aren’t comfortable protesting, you can help by doing things like taking care of people there who get injured.” 

Harris said she is encouraged that more people are standing up and making their voices heard. She added that despite what positive things are said, positive actions need to follow.

“It’s definitely part of a bigger movement. It’s happening all over the world, not just in our own country,” she said. “People are seeing what is happening here and taking action.”