It’s not often that I find myself running from police, but that’s exactly what happened Tuesday evening.
I was covering a protest at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit over the fatal shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. when demonstrators decided to march on the streets.
“Let’s block the freeway,” one protester said to cheers after marching on Woodward and converging on the downtown Detroit jail.
About 40 protesters, clutching signs and chanting “No Justice, no peace,” walked around police cars that tried to block the march and sauntered north on I-75.
Within minutes, more than a dozen police cars with blinking lights followed the march.
For nearly 30 minutes, protesters managed to block the northbound lane before police used their cars – and threats of arrest – to nudge protesters off the Mack exit.
But once demonstrators exited, they continued to block roads as they marched toward Wayne State University. They marched north on Woodward and west on Warren before noisily entering two campus buildings, shouting and banging on walls.
Protesters continued to move around police who tried to block them and entered the Lodge freeway and headed south.
This time police weren’t messing around. About 15 squad cars from Detroit Police, state police and Wayne State Police trailed behind, as did a bus designed to hold dozens of prisoners.
By this time, there were about 30 demonstrators left.
Police used their cars to wedge protesters into one lane. Squad cars advanced ahead of the protesters and prepared to make arrests.
Then came one of the most poignant moments. A Wayne State officer who was gingerly using his car to nudge protesters off the road jumped out of his car when he saw an advancing Detroit cop nearly plow into the crowd. The Wayne State officer shouted at the cop and wedged himself between the squad car and the protesters, who jumped onto the embankment and over a fence on the service drive near the Motor City Casino at W.
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Police grabbed a few demonstrators but let them go as they marched.
The protesters returned to Hart Plaza and avoided arrest.
Between five and seven protesters were arrested during a similar protest that blocked I-94 near Gratiot in Detroit at about the same time.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.