‘We shut it down!’ Protesters take over the streets during Noel Night in Detroit

Protesters hold up signs that spell out, "I CAN'T BREATHE," in front of the Detroit Institute of Arts on Noel Night in Detroit.
Protesters hold up signs that spell out, “I CAN’T BREATHE,” in front of the Detroit Institute of Arts on Noel Night in Detroit.

Hundreds of peaceful protesters marched on the streets near Wayne State University and staged a “die-in” during the Noel Night festivities on Saturday to express outrage over the recent deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers.

It was the largest protest yet in Detroit since grand juries decided not to indict the officers who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York City. A racially diverse crowd of protesters gathered at 6 p.m. in front of the Detroit Institute of Arts on Woodward and marched south, blocking traffic as they chanted, “No justice, no peace!” and “Whose streets? Our streets!”

Noel Night Protest

Noel Night Protests

Noel Night Protest

For the next two hours, protesters marched through the streets just west of Woodward. Some held up their hands, while others clutched signs that read, “Black Lives Matter” and “Jail Killer Cops.”  They chanted and demanded justice.

Some drivers honked in support. No road was blocked for long because the march zig-zagged through various streets adjacent to Wayne State.

Police were restrained and even friendly, shutting down traffic ahead of the marches to protect the participants. Even when protesters chanted and shut down intersections for a few minutes at a time, the officers from Wayne State and Detroit police departments stood by passively.

Protesters responded in kind and never escalated the act of civil disobedience beyond marching on the streets.

“They shoot us down, we shut it down!” protesters chanted while blocking the intersection at Cass and Canfield.

Organizers encouraged the crowd to keep the peace, and DIA security had no trouble getting protesters to clear the stairs when the museum closed at 10 p.m.

Noel Night Protests

Noel Night Protest

Noel Night Protests

At 8 p.m., the growing number of marchers met in front of the Detroit Institute of Arts for a “die-in,” a haunting exhibition in which participants utter, “I can’t breathe,” while lying on the ground to simulate the last minutes of Eric Garner’s life as a New York City cop held him in an illegal chokehold.

Throughout the night, protesters staged at least three die-ins, drawing crowds of curious and even supportive on-lookers. Young children were sprawled on the ground with their family. During the few minutes of silence that represented Garner’s death, some demonstrators cried silently or clutched the hand of the person next to them.

Noel Night Protest

Noel Night Protest

Noel Night Protest

Noel Night Protest

Noel Night Protest

The marches continued until about 10 p.m. and rarely held up the festivities that drew thousands of people for Noel Night. While some people debate the effectiveness of the protests, one product of the demonstration that can’t be dismissed is the camaraderie among protesters.

One of the most indelible moments came at the end when an African American woman was moved to tears when she heard a group of white men loudly joining in on the chant, “Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter!”

Shirley Jackson, of Detroit, approached the young men and hugged each of them.

“You have no idea,” she told them, fanning her teary eyes.

Noel Night Protest\ Noel Night Protest

Noel Night Protest

Noel Night Protest

 

Noel Night Protest

Check back with us for updates on the next protests and reactions over the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Please share your thoughts, but refrain from name-calling or intimidation. Those comments will be removed.  

Steve Neavling

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.

  • oldbuildingsrule88

    Steve, you and you’re ‘people’ are not on the right side of history. Stop fanning the flames of bulls—! It’s disgusting, as what that race does to themselves and others on a daily basis, man.

    • Rick Derris

      You’re right, old man!

      White supremacists have always been on the right side of history!

  • dirtydog1776

    Detroit use to be an arsenal of production……now just proud of shutting down things and stagnating.

  • fuzzy1967

    It was a perfect time to protest…I was glad to see so many out there protesting…it didn’t ruin anything …it enhanced the event by getting the message to all of those attending the event who would have not thought about it at all…..protests can educate the masses even when they don’t know they are being educated

    • oldbuildingsrule88

      you are so full of shit

  • Karl R. Denton

    You did not shut it down, far from it. What you did do is hurt local businesses by preventing people from enjoying Detroit.

  • Adaj Parr

    Steve is like that maggiemay. He is available the highest bidder. Steve won’t report about the fraudulent election. Mike Duggan won’t allow it.

  • Steve Dibert

    Whats not being covered by the media is that the protesters are always the same 200+ professional protesters who protest everything. They protest water shut offs, alleged illegal evictions, killing baby seals, deporting illegal aliens, corrupt greed, etc. If there is something to bitch about, these same people will show up.

    • muckraker_steve

      Steve, that has been largely true in Detroit for a long time, despite the great civil rights legacy here. But that has changed after the death of Eric Garner. There are a lot of new faces. After talking to a good random sample, I’d say a majority of the marchers were either new to protesting or haven’t done it since the 60s.

      • maggiemay

        What great “civil rights legacy”? Google and Wikipedia only come up with a march down Woodward in 1963, and of course the 1967 riots.

    • DeniseAnnArbor

      “Professional” protesters?? These are Detroit residents. They are mostly members of grassroots organizations who work paying jobs AND get in the streets because they BELIEVE in change and justice. Who on Earth do you think would pay anyone to do what our people did and do every damn day to keep this City for the People? Tell us, because many of the folks in the streets that night do not make it paycheck-to-paycheck.

      • kayvee

        Thank you – so tired of Detroit press dismissing people who know this city deeply and are committed and passionate and hopeful enough to get out there. Because, you know, why pay attention to a well informed cohort of active, engaged citizens – they certainly couldn’t have a perspective worth attending to, right?

      • oldbuildingsrule88

        you know he means, they do this frequently, not about getting paid from it. And as far as what you liberals think is right – smh. yea…

  • LORD P ¡ † Δ

    bless all the people who stood in solidarity that night! each of you are heroes!

    • oldbuildingsrule88

      f all of you ignorant fools! Get off your crypto-racist soap box. it’s a liberal deflection lie. take a look at your murderous race and make the real change that’s needed. Too big and real of a problem to tackle, huh? you need to f whitey in the a– for your inexcusable bull. Tell you what. If you’re just like any other race, than do a protest to recall the rest of the blcks that are swarming our suburbs now and putting guns and knives to our throats and you live in the stinkhole of Detroit and we’ll live here. No, too just a concept for you to wrap your head around again. F U

      • LORD P ¡ † Δ

        You have to be a troll. I can reason with the fact that human beings with your primitive understanding of the modern world exist. But that you would make such slanderous statements without evidence leads me to believe you just want attention. I am black and raised in Detroit’s suburbs and believe me the threat to my well being isnt posed by my brothers and sisters pf any race but more so out of condition or the stupidity that your comment displayed.

  • chris

    Hmm.. If black lives matter so much, why not protest all the violent black on black crime, or worse yet planned parenthood?

    • LORD P ¡ † Δ

      here’s the issue with this train of thought. black on black crime is not an excuse for police profiling or police brutality. black on black crime is the result of structural misdirection that leaves neighborhoods desolate and void of the means to lift one’s self out of poverty. NO amount of protest can change that without attending to the fact that minus structural support the community we know as the black community will remain disenfranchised and these events will continue. as foir planned parenthood? thats not a black invention or even a service MAJORILY frequented by black girls (we all know there are just as many if not more promiscuous white women loose) however these places are necessary for people who dont feel ready to be parents and want to assess the options freely provided to them.

      when you intelligently explain things, you’d like to hope ignorant (not that you intend to be) statements like these arent made without proper thought

      • chris

        I think you need to take time to read up on the history of Planned Parenthood and its founder Margaret Sanger.

        • LORD P ¡ † Δ

          i know the history of Planned Parenthood, but the intentions of MILLIONS of entities like that have changed paths multiple times… eugenics and its administration is different this side of the 21st century

          • chris

            Given the number of African American babies aborted over the years, I don’t believe their “Path has changed” at all. http://www.blackgenocide.org/black.html. You are entitled to your opinion of course and so am I. If black lives really mattered to those holding the signs, they would be protesting Planned Parenthood, and the fact that nearly all of the offices are located in predominately black populated areas.

          • LORD P ¡ † Δ

            http://www.dianedew.com/sanger.htm << her rants werent specifically JUST for black population control. She was a eugenicist. Much of her practice was used in Nazi Germany. Maybe i should have elaborated that eugenics doesnt just threaten race anymore. Race and class war are side by side! Yes planned parenthood is and was planned to be in neighborhoods of color, but there's one in many white neighborhoods as well. the point of black lives mattering is for us as black people to be seen as equal life in the eyes of our judicial system. People of ALL colors have in fighting and issues with other races — partially because America lumped us all over here but never taught us how to get along.

            Essentially my point is that hyphenated nationality (African/Italo/etc) is a preferated line by which to separate people in a nation so diverse where we are ALL effected as solely "Americans", Planned Parenthood much like many other sterilization places have become necessary evils because now moreso than just controling a populous to govern, you're ensuring we don't exhaust resources (and no, this isnt to say that abortion isn't a tool, but in lieu of population boom and a limited planet, its something we cant obliterate from existence)

  • Ballsy Terri

    Compare the respectful actions of these demonstrators with what’s going on in Berkly CA, and you can’t help but admire how well EVERYONE involved handled themselves.

    • LORD P ¡ † Δ

      the police are agitating this situation in some areas, its not just looters and rioters out here. and even so, it isnt a despicable form of protest. the first step towards lasting change is to get angry.

      • Ballsy Terri

        Maybe the first thing YOU can is get a job; NOT get angry.

        • muckraker_steve

          Ballsy, I appreciate that you are sharing your opinion here, but don’t launch personal insults. It’s the only rule we have. You don’t know whether Lord has a job or not.

          • Ballsy Terri

            sorry man i checked the time of dat post n i was just poppin’ my 2nd bottle o Ripple

          • oldbuildingsrule88

            You are a young, liberal fool. That’s not an insult, just fact. Get your head out of your butt.

          • LORD P ¡ † Δ

            And you, good sur are an old conservative fart who doesnt know neo conservatives and neo liberals are the same. Extremist fundamentalist bigots and miseducated pockets of American “civilization”. Lets just act accordingly…

        • LORD P ¡ † Δ

          um, i have a job. having a job doesnt fix social issues. it would be the elitist ideal of the privileged to correlate those two into a fathomable meaning.

          the key is to understand BEFORE you judge… or better yet, dont judge.

  • Visual Ronin

    As much as I feel the pain and aggravation of the situation that these people are protesting, I am left to ask: what is the point? what did they accomplish other than 1 day of news coverage? what did they prove? and, most importantly, what, if anything, did the protests achieve in the form of change?

    • Drew Whittaker

      As I read your comments, Visual Ronin, I’m hearing your words come out like Droopy the Dog. There’s always been a Droopy passing judgement on protests: there was probably one minimizing demonstrators in Alabama in the 60s or in Johannesburg during Apartheid. Probably someone in Moscow in the 80s said: “Those protestors are wasting their time, meh, why don’t they do work on a REAL solution.” (Maybe those aren’t the best examples, because a Droopy guy can look back on history and pronounce judgement, positively affirming the nature of the protest). When I look at the photos of kids participating, I think of my children and how I hope to educate them to take moral stands because it is the right thing to do, not because it will necessarily led to some objectives.

      • Visual Ronin

        Dear Droopy Drew:
        Times have dramatically changed since marchers took the streets of Selma and Soweto.

        Teach your kids how to think and vote and take action by influence, not by walking or laying down in the street. Teach children to seek change by becoming the change, not protesting it.

        Those who succumbed to water cannons, dogs, night sticks and bullets were those who went on to make the changes. Had they simply marched and laid down and then gone home like all of the Noel Night individuals did, then nothing would have happened. Carrying cardboard signs in front of the DIA does nothing to further a cause.

        Blockade a police station, stand in front of the mayor’s home, petition your politicians, take action. Don’t just lay down. That accomplishes nothing. And nothing was accomplished by these protesters this weekend.

  • Boe Seph

    Steve, Where were the arrogant cops, they knew better than to mess with you on this day!!! Hope they get what they deserve and a lot more!

  • maggiemay

    Another one of your misleading headlines. They didn’t shut anything down, the protests were peaceful and no one was prevented from enjoying Noel Night. I guess if something isn’t dramatic enough for you, you just make something up.

    • Mike

      Maybe you didn’t notice the quotes around “We shut it down?” He’s taking a line used by the people at the gathering, and the entire article seems to go to great lengths to note that everything remained peaceful.

      I guess if something isn’t dramatic enough for you, you just make something up.

      • maggiemay

        Yes, the headline is in quotes and says they shut it down, which isn’t true. In fact, the quote was taken out of context and the first part was left out. Steve does this kind of thing all the time.

        • LORD P ¡ † Δ

          im not attacking you or anyone by asking, but maybe the part of the title youre insisting is misleading is due to a lack of inference. the context of the protests isnt misconstrued in the title to me…

      • muckraker_steve

        Thanks, Mike. That’s what I was going for. Critics are everywhere. I appreciate it.

    • Ballsy Terri

      I thought the exact same thing. Steve will exploit anything for a few extra clicks.

      • maggiemay

        Geez, you mean we agree on something?