West Bloomfield, Huntington Woods and the Woodward Corridor were among the metro areas where protesters turned out in droves.
Across Metro Detroit, many protesters in majority-white suburbs with large Jewish populations mobilized on foot and in vehicles in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. (Reports compiled by Jewish News staffers Maya Goldman, Andrew Lapin and Jackie Headapohl.)
About 500 people gathered at a police reform protest in West Bloomfield Friday afternoon, June 5.
As the crowd amassed, volunteers walked around to help attendees register to vote. Protesters stood on either side of Orchard Lake Road between 14 and 15 Mile roads. Cars honked in solidarity as they passed the crowd.
It was organized by college students Thomas Callahan of Southfield and Raniyah Reynolds of Detroit. The pair founded an organization called Black Leader’s Reformative Institute. Reynolds, a junior at Michigan State University, said it was important to her and Callahan that the police reform movement have a presence in the Detroit suburbs.
“I just wanted to make sure that we took it outside to places that are not necessarily known for police brutality but making sure that we’re all united, we’re all a community, we all understand that this is not OK,” Reynolds said. “We wanted to make sure that West Bloomfield had a voice as well.”
While many organizers across the country — including in Detroit and Ann Arbor — are demanding that their cities defund police forces and instead invest in other community services, Reynolds and Callahan organized their march around police reform.
People from across West Bloomfield and surrounding cities came out to protest. Nancy Cohen, a West Bloomfield resident and a Hillel Day School teacher, said she came to the event to send a message to her students and her own children.
“As a woman in her 50s, I’ve never felt so disheartened by the events and the political divide of our country,” she said. “You can’t sit quietly. You’ve got to be involved.”
Teri Weingarden, who serves as the treasurer of West Bloomfield Township, said she felt the Jewish presence at the event was important because of Judaism’s belief in tikkun olam. “It is our responsibility to repair the world,” she said.
Weingarden believes the township board would fund additional anti-bias training for their police department if a proposal were to be made.
The crowd marched down Orchard Lake to the West Bloomfield Police Department for a short rally.
Rabbi Rachel Lawson Shere of Adat Shalom Synagogue held two signs — one with a Hebrew verse from the Torah and the other saying “I Can’t Breathe,” the final words of George Floyd.
“The word in Hebrew for ‘breathe’ is the same word for ‘spirit,’” Shere said. “People’s spirits are dying and we’re standing idly by… We’ve lived too long in a completely ignorant and racist society, and I’m sick of it.”
In the police station parking lot, Reynolds and Callahan each said a few words, followed by a short speech from West Bloomfield Police Chief Mike Patton. Protesters also observed a moment of silence for Breonna Taylor’s birthday. Taylor was killed in her Kentucky home on March 13, when police officers entered her apartment on a search warrant and shot her at least eight times.
“Right now is a time for police officers to listen to what their communities are telling them,” Patton said.
There was one uncomfortable encounter near the beginning of the protest. A man with a gun clipped to his waistband approached a group of protesters.
In a video clip posted to Facebook by West Bloomfield resident Claire Jolliffe, Callahan tells the man the organizers didn’t want any private citizens with guns in the vicinity. The man said he believed in the same cause as the organizers, but that he wanted young people to understand that “firearms don’t incite violence.”
After a few moments, West Bloomfield Deputy Chief Curt Lawson came over to explain the man had a right to be at the protest with his gun. “I know him, he’s not a threat,” Lawson told Callahan.
Callahan told the JN after the protest that although the situation was uncomfortable, he understood the man had a right to bear arms. He also appreciated Lawson’s efforts to “help contribute to the de-escalation of the situation, which is what we stand for.”
Jolliffe hopes there will be another protest in West Bloomfield soon that highlights the problems with policing in Oakland County.
– Maya Goldman
An estimated 700 people, many of them teenagers, staked out their own Black Lives Matter protest in Huntington Woods, a city of around 6,000 residents, late in the afternoon on Friday, June 5.
Marchers largely stuck to the sidewalks as they made their way from the Huntington Woods Lutheran Church on 11 Mile Road and Scotia, onto a brief, busy stretch of Woodward Avenue, before turning down Lincoln Drive into a residential neighborhood. Many cars along Woodward honked their approval.
“Huntington Woods cannot be silent — we must support the movement for black lives,” Maya Edery, who co-organized the march with a group of seven of her friends, neighbors and immediate family, told the JN.
Edery, 27, is a Huntington Woods native home from New York for the summer. She said she was inspired by her grandparents, longtime Huntington Woods residents Arnie and Lainie Shifman, who “taught me the importance of speaking out when something is unjust and the importance of taking action to create the world you want to see.” Arnie Shifman died this January; Lainie marched on Friday alongside her family.
Chants reciting the names of police violence victims George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were accompanied by one marcher’s drums.
The peaceful march was organized on social media channels, as well as via email listservs, and the majority of marchers were white. Almost every protester wore a mask.
– Andrew Lapin
A Woodward Caravan
Folks along Woodward Avenue saw a different kind of cruise on Sunday, June 7. No muscle cars or roadsters revving their engines — just a lot of Subarus, Toyotas and Nissans driven by mostly white suburbanites, sporting signs like “Black Lives Matter” and “We Will Not be Silent.”
The vehicles were part of the 250-car “Suburban Silence is Racist Violence Caravan” that drove down Woodward from 8 Mile to Lone Pine on Sunday afternoon. Several Jewish groups, including the Social Justice Committee of Birmingham Temple, Repair the World Detroit and Detroit Jews for Justice, were among the many social action groups supporting the event, which had more than 900 Facebook users interested, according to organizer Emma Green of Madison Heights.
One organizer of the family-friendly event, Rich Feldman of Huntington Woods, has been working for racial equality since the 1960s. “I made a commitment for life to transform our culture and society,” he said. “It’s not a moment, but a journey.”
Robb Lippitt of Repair the World Detroit brought his wife, Debbie, and daughters Eryn, 20, and Molly, 22. “It’s important for Jews to speak out, recognizing that we know what oppression is like and we need to do something about it,” he said.
The cars slowly made their way down Woodward with hazard lights on, sticking to the two left lanes and honking in solidarity with spectators along the road who held their own “Black Lives Matter” signs. The procession ended in the parking lot of the Birmingham Unitarian Church on Woodward, where speakers addressed the crowd and led them in chants.
Noah Krasman, 25, of Farmington Hills, was at the protest with his father, Gary.
“This speaks to our human values, along with our Jewish values,” Noah said. “One informs the other.”
Gary added, “We are all God’s creatures, and it’s well beyond time people have started to speak out and inform the rest of the world.”
– Jackie Headapohl