CBS Detroit – Yesterday at about 5:20 pm a group of about 30 protestors took over an intersection of eastbound Jefferson Avenue and Grand River Boulevard in Detroit, which is right in front of the Belle Isle entrance.

According to The Detroit Press, it was an act of civil disobedience as protestors set up a basketball hoop, blew bubbles, and drew on the street with chalk. The group declared the area “cop-free”, and called it the “313 Liberation Zone”. The crowd was made up of people of different ethnicities and ranged in age from children, teens, and adults. During the protest, chants could be heard by the group that included, “defund the police, they were made to kill”.

About 20 minutes later the police arrived surrounding the area with police cars demanding the protestors to leave. A leader in the group requested to police that they stay until 6:10 pm and according to the Free press, DPD allowed it.

Credit: CBS Detroit – File Photo Belle Isle Bridge

One of the leaders in the group of protestors said it was a coalition of Black Detroiters. According to the Free Press, people in the group identified themselves with or wore clothing from the organization Michigan Liberation, which is focused on criminal justice reform.

As to the why behind this protest, they wanted half of the Detroit Police Department’s $330 million budget cut in half so it could be used to fund recreation programs, housing needs, education centers, and provide water and street lights.

Organizer Leon Hister said the 313 Liberation Zone was created to create a space for Black joy, leisure, and play. Hister told the Free Press, “What we’re doing is presenting a vision of a possible future, where our communities are properly invested in and there’s not police,”.

They target the location near Belle Isle because restoring recreation was central to their demands. As the city of Detroit removed basketball hoops at the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak to limit people meeting in groups who were not social distancing. According to Hister this criminalized black bodies.

The Free Press noted this seemed similar to Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or CHAZ as it came to be known, which was recently dismantled by police after violence broke out there. Hister however said before the blockade this wasn’t based on the CHAZ.

As one might expect there were lots of horns honking because of the protest, but not all were in agreement with the protestors. Steven Jackson, 60, of Detroit, told the Free Press “That’s not cool because if I was driving today I would be very disappointed,”.   Other drivers were seen getting visibly upset making illegal moves to get around the protestors.


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Charlie Forbes

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