LIVING FOR CHANGE
Establish Justice, Create Peace Zones
By Richard Feldman
Michigan Citizen, June 2, 2009
The May 21 demonstration demanding Justice for 16-year old, learning-disabled Robert Mitchell, who was taserd and killed by Warren police officers on April 10, was an historic event.
During the march there was a transition from Protest and Opposition to Transformation, Resistance and a Resolve to begin creating Alternatives.
Marchers not only demanded:
- Justice for Robert Mitchell
- End the use of Tasers
- Prosecute the Police Officers Responsible
They pledged to “Create a Detroit-Warren Peace Zone for Life.”
Marchers chanted “What do we want? Justice!” They also chanted: “What do we need? Peace! Peace Zones for Life! Put the neighbor back in the ‘hood!”
We marched from the park at Schoenherr and Bringard to Robert’s Detroit home where he was killed; then two blocks north to the Detroit-Warren border on 8 Mile, crossed 8 Mile into and out of Warren, and returned to the park in Detroit.
Among the 150-200 marchers were mothers, teens, and other concerned citizens. Young people playing basketball in the park joined us.
Many organizations were represented: NAACP, Lawyers Guild, Greenacres community, Green Party, Young Democrats, Congressman Conyers’ office,
The president of UAW local 909, in Warren, came out (on crutches) to demonstrate the need to tear down borders.
This historic demonstration was the culmination of more than a decade of tenacious and dedicated struggle by the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, whose main spokesperson has been Ron Scott, a member of the Detroit Black Panther Party in the early 70s.
I remember the Black Panthers patrolling the streets to create safe spaces and also organizing breakfast programs. I remember Huey talking about creating community. He would have rejoiced at this leap forward in the struggle for justice and against police brutality.
I also remember Advocators and the Committee for Political Development, led by Jimmy and Grace Boggs and Kenny Snodgrass, going door to door with a small yellow statement entitled “Crime Among Our People,” calling upon neighbors to pledge together not to buy “hot goods” as a step towards ending our crimes against one another.
I remember marching in the 1980s with WEPROS (We the People Reclaim Our Streets), led by Dorothy Garner, chanting “Down with Dope, Up with Hope” and with SOSAD (Save our Sons and Daughters) led by Clementine Barfield. I remember planting trees at sites where Detroiters had lost their lives as our city became the “Murder Capital” of the world.
I remember that Martin Luther King Jr. called for a radical revolution of values against Racism, Materialism and Militarism in his 1967 speech against the Vietnam War. I also remember that Malcolm X, transformed by his pilgrimage to Mecca, went to Selma to tell MLK he was ready to work with him.
The tone of the May 21 demonstration was set by Robert Mitchell’s family, Ron Scott, and Yusef Shaku, a friend of Hush House’s Mama Sandra. They made clear that this gathering is about Life. “It is time to end the anger, time to become more human, time to create community by caring for each other.”
Cora Renee Mitchell, Robert’s mother, working through her own pain, inspired other families who have been victims of police violence or community violence.
This was a space and place where the voices of Life and Hope were heard. This was about making it clear that the communities of Detroit and Warren are taking responsibility for ending not only police brutality but the war among ourselves. It was a community saying: “We will turn our pain and tragedy into community building and
transformation, so our children and young people can have a future.”
With the May 21 demonstration on both sides of 8 Mile Road, we have taken a historic step towards recognizing that we can no longer separate the war on Mack from the war in Iraq or Afghanistan. To establish Justice, for our own safety, and on behalf of our common humanity, we need to Replace Borders with Peace Zones for Life.