U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan Rep. Stephanie Chang and two city council members have called for an investigation of Detroit police actions at anti-brutality demonstrations this summer in the city.
Detroit Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield and council member Raquel Castañeda-López are the other signers of a letter to Mayor Mike Duggan, Police Chief James Craig and the Board of Police Commissioners, as well as Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
“The right to free speech is one that is fundamental to our country’s democracy and critical to ensuring that our beloved city is one where everyone is heard,” the letter said. “[Protesters] and others exercising their constitutional right to speak up about police brutality and racial justice deserve the same protection others receive. No person should fear being beaten, tasered, tear gassed, shot, or killed by law enforcement officers.”
Craig defends his department:
"There were times when we've had to use force, but each time it was when our officers were under direct attack, or a decision was made to make lawful arrests, and there was resistance to that arrest," Craig said. "I find it interesting that the narrative is never about the aggressive behavior demonstrated by the protesters, who have thrown things at our officers, including spikes and boulders.
The department has been on the defensive in recent days. After the protest group Detroit Will Breathe sued over its use of certain crowd-control tactics, a federal judge last week granted a 14-day temporary restraining order preventing police from using "striking weapons" such as batons and shields; pepper spray and tear gas; and sound cannons against peaceful protesters.
And Tlaib and Craig have butted heads, as well. Last year, she questioned the department's use of facial-recognition technology, claiming it often misidentifies people of color. Craig defended the practice.