Photo: Activists disrupt former Detroit police chief James Craig’s campaign announcement (Source: Ken Coleman, Michigan Advance)
By Peter Garland
On September 14, activists from Detroit Will Breathe shut down a speech by former chief of police James Craig as he announced his candidacy for the office of governor of Michigan. Craig oversaw the Detroit Police Department (DPD) during the May Uprisings following George Floyd’s murder, when the department frequently attacked and injured protesters.
As he spoke, a group of protesters surrounded Craig with signs, blared airhorns, and chanted over him, making most of his speech inaudible. He fled after about 30 seconds, as the crowd pursued him while chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, James Craig has got to go!” Craig later relocated his press conference to the rooftop of a nearby building along the waterfront. The actions of the activists led to Craig cancelling a planned event in Flint, Michigan.
Craig sought to discredit the action, telling local monopoly media affiliate WDET that he believed the protesters were paid, while admitting he had no concrete evidence of this. Detroit Will Breathe, which is a group of volunteer activists, responded to the accusation, telling Deadline Detroit: “The only person there seeking to get paid for their politics was Craig.”
In a statement on the action posted on social media, Detroit Will Breathe characterized Craig as “a man who directed his department to brutalize protesters taking a stand against systemic racism and police brutality, … a man who called the officer who executed Hakim Littleton with a shot to the back of the head an ‘American hero.’” Littleton was a Black man killed by DPD police officers in July 2020.
Detroit Will Breathe formed during the May Uprisings and has organized many protests in the Detroit area. The organization has raised demands such as the prosecution and firing of any police officer involved in police brutality, and dropping all charges and citations against protesters involved in the uprisings following George Floyd’s death.
Craig, who is running on the Republican Party ticket, was Detroit’s chief of police from 2013 to 2021. During the May Uprisings, Craig’s officers brutally attacked protesters fighting for justice against racist police brutality. Last year, in late June, DPD officers drove an SUV through a march, injuring multiple people. Craig defended the officers, saying, “Would you prefer the officers sat in the car?”
During this assault with a vehicle, Jae Bass, an organizer with Detroit Will Breathe, was thrown from the hood of the SUV while trying to protect other protesters in the attack. According to the Detroit Free Press, Bass said, “[The officer] went super fast. Me and a couple of other organizers that were with me just went flinging off. … He ran over a couple people’s arms, feet. … I was just holding on to the car. I could feel him speeding up and then… he flinged me off the car.”
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