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 Power Detroit organizer Summer March, 25, of Troy, walks beside Officer Mitchell Miller, of the Royal Oak Police Department, during a protest against police brutality and racial injustice in Royal Oak June 1.

Power Detroit organizer Summer March, 25, of Troy, walks beside Officer Mitchell Miller, of the Royal Oak Police Department, during a protest against police brutality and racial injustice in Royal Oak June 1.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


Royal Oak police join protest against police brutality and racial injustice

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 2, 2020

 Royal Oak-based One Oak Church Pastor Robby Emery, right, marches with protesters in Royal Oak after speaking to the group about the importance of protests against racism June 1.

Royal Oak-based One Oak Church Pastor Robby Emery, right, marches with protesters in Royal Oak after speaking to the group about the importance of protests against racism June 1.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

 Officer Jessica Reece, of the Royal Oak Police Department, hands out water to protesters outside the Royal Oak Public Library June 1.

Officer Jessica Reece, of the Royal Oak Police Department, hands out water to protesters outside the Royal Oak Public Library June 1.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

 Protesters gather outside the Royal Oak Farmers Market June 1.

Protesters gather outside the Royal Oak Farmers Market June 1.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

 Lauren Valice, 22, who moved back to Rochester from Chicago due to COVID-19, holds a sign that reads, “Momma Momma,” during a demonstration in Royal Oak June 1.

Lauren Valice, 22, who moved back to Rochester from Chicago due to COVID-19, holds a sign that reads, “Momma Momma,” during a demonstration in Royal Oak June 1.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

 James Cox, of Royal Oak, holds a mirror painted with the words, “Are you proud of what you see?” during a demonstration in Royal Oak June 1.

James Cox, of Royal Oak, holds a mirror painted with the words, “Are you proud of what you see?” during a demonstration in Royal Oak June 1.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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ROYAL OAK — On June 1, approximately 100 people, including many first-time protesters, marched peacefully with police officers through downtown Royal Oak after gathering outside the library.

The protest was organized by Power Detroit, with the help of March for Black Women Detroit and the Detroit Solidarity Movement. Pastor Robby Emery, of One Oak Church in Royal Oak, spoke to the group about the importance of protests against racism.

Across the world, protesters have assembled in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota. Derek Chauvin, a white former police officer, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Officials say Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck — despite Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe and bystanders’ pleading — for upwards of eight minutes during an arrest for a minor offense.

Troy resident Summer March, 25, of Power Detroit, said she feels it is important to bring protests to the suburbs outside Detroit, where many black people experience racism firsthand. Her organization’s mission is to combat police brutality and racial injustice by working directly with law enforcement.

“Our organization didn’t pop up because of George Floyd,” March said. “We feel like we’re moreso angry because George Floyd’s death didn’t have to happen, because we’ve experienced this type of stuff before.”

She said Power Detroit works largely with the Detroit and Southfield police departments to implement policies. Chauvin had at least 17 misconduct complaints filed against him.

“If people are complaining, it’s for a reason. Check into those officers,” March said. “What we’ve seen now is people are going to Detroit protesting, but they don’t even live in the city, and at night they begin to almost sort of attack police officers, and that’s not what we’re about. They’re making it worse for the people who actually live in the city.”

Lauren Valice, 22, who moved back to Rochester from Chicago due to COVID-19, held a sign that read, “Momma Momma.”

“Those were some of the last words George Floyd said before he was killed by four police officers. I’m here today to stand in solidarity with people in Royal Oak. I think it’s important for these protests to be reaching other neighborhoods other than Detroit,” Valice said. “We need to raise awareness to these people that are predominantly white and other races that this is an issue, that black lives matter.”

James Cox, of Royal Oak, carried a mirror painted with the words, “Are you proud of what you see?” His voice hoarse from yelling at protests in Detroit the last three days, he said he planned to take Monday off, but had to join the demonstration just blocks from his home.

“Until people in power see that we really care, then nothing’s going to change,” Cox said. “I’m sick of people saying it’s a training thing. No one is trained to do that. I’m sick of people making up excuses for the police.”

Royal Oak Deputy Chief Michael Frazier said March contacted police about the protest beforehand.

“Safety is our main concern for a large group like that walking down the sidewalk with cars coming by,” Frazier said. “We have some officers handing out water because it’s been a warm day. Our city is theirs to use.”

Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue spoke at a protest organized in front of the 44th District Court in Royal Oak Sunday, May 31.

“No one can look at what happened to George Floyd and not be sickened. It’s incomprehensible that not only did it happen, but it happened with other officers standing by, and there’s no justification for that. His death was 100% avoidable,” O’Donohue said. “My job is to make sure our officers are property trained, make sure we have a system of accountability, and most importantly, have a culture that doesn’t tolerate something like that happening.”

One bad police officer, he said, can do a lot of damage.

“It might not be as tragic as what happened to George Floyd, but it can create a lot of damage by mistreating people in general, and that causes a lot of pain and a lot of resentment, and that resentment can build,” O’Donohue said.

Lakeesha Morrison, of Royal Oak, helped organize the May 31 protest, which she estimated attracted 100-125 protesters. She plans to organize another demonstration at the 44th District Court at 2 p.m. June 6.

Morrison said her immediate family, descended from ex-slaves Elizabeth and Henry Hamer, who settled in Royal Oak and worked for the Starr family, experienced police brutality firsthand in 2002, and she wanted to take a stand.

“It hurts my heart to see that continue inside of our community,” she said. “We want to get everyone out and fight for what is right and just to know there is a community behind us. We should not be policing the police.”

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