Cliff Woodards II: 'I Hang My Head In Shame' At Response to Steve Utash Assault

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Prominent community figure Cliff Woodards II, a criminal defense attorney at The Detroit Law Center since 2003, speaks out forcefully about the city's latest negative national attention.


"Where is black outrage over their own who act so animalistic?" writes Cliff Woodards II. (Facebook photo)

"I hang my head in shame that no one seems to be speaking out for Steve Utash except his family," Woodards posted Friday on Facebook, where his 630-word cry of conscience is labeled "Shame On Us (A Rant for Steve Utash)."

I'm still waiting on the outcry. It's been two days and I'm still waiting to learn where we're going to march. I haven't heard a peep from community leaders and activists. I haven't seen one teddy bear affixed to a light pole. . . .

For Steve Utash, the voices are silent and the streets are empty. . . . Imagine though, if this happened to a black tree trimmer who was passing through Roseville? Al Sharpton would have been on a plane before the man got out of surgery. Local community leaders and pastors would have taken to the airwaves and the pulpits in search of justice for this fallen hero.

But where is black outrage over their own who act so animalistic that they do reprehensible acts like this upon ANYONE, regardless of race? We have long been desensitized toward black on black crime. Have we now become insensitive toward black on white violence?

The heartfelt essay has earned about 500 "like" clicks, more than 100 comments and is shared nearly 560 times. 

Woodards' reflections were posted before a statement later that day from Mayor Mike Duggan and Brenda Jones, president of the City Council. "This senseless, vigilante-style attack is not the essence of who we are as Detroiters and will not be tolerated," they wrote.

The Detroit attorney -- a graduate of Cass Tech ('78), WSU ('84) and Wayne' Law School ('01) -- reminds readers of high-profile situations he sees as similar:

  • Renisha McBride's death on a Dearborn Heights porch last November, when a scared homeowner shot the African-American teen from Detroit.
  • A video of Grosse Pointe Park police taunting and mocking homeless Detroiter Michael Scipio last fall.
  • The 1992 severe beating of white trucker Reginald Denny during LA unrest after white police officers were acquitted of using excessive force against Rodney King.

Cliff Woodards II: ""From Reginald Denny to Steve Utash -- have we not learned anything in nearly a quarter of a century?" (LinkjedIn photo)

"From Reginald Denny to Steve Utash -- have we not learned anything in nearly a quarter of a century?" Woodards asks.

His April 4 post also cites a coincidence of timing:

On this, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination, let us remember that he marched, not just for black people, but for all those who were afflicted and downtrodden. He marched for civil rights. Not black rights. He marched for non-violence. Not hatred. He marched for justice. In fact, it was he who said "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

So today, I hang my head in shame at those in our community who would do injustice in our neighborhoods yet demand justice from others. 

Those moved by the remarks include Tand Ariella of Detroit, who accompanies a donation to Steve Utash's family  with this comment Sunday at their fund-raising page:

I agree with how he [Woodards] feels. Now I'm calling out all activists myself. Good people of all races: Where are we what are we doing? Only 2 people caught out of 12. We need to protest, march, post flowers and teddy bears at the scene peacefully. We need to not rest until all involved are brought to justice.

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