Protesters speak out about disrupting Mayor Duggan’s State of the City address

Mayor Duggan delivered his annual State of the City address on Tuesday.
Mayor Duggan delivered his annual State of the City address on Tuesday.

By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

Protesters managed to get inside Mayor Mike Duggan’s invitation-only State of the City address on Detroit’s east side Tuesday, disrupting the speech four times before they were escorted out of the building.

Hecklers unfurled a sign that read, “Opportunity for who?”

The protesters took turns disrupting the speech about every 10 or 15 minutes, calling attention to the negative impact of gentrification, water shutoffs, the disinvestment in education infrastructure, and ties between Duggan’s administration and Gov. Snyder on emergency management.

“Shut up, Duggan!” one protester yelled. “Power to the people.”

Another heckler shouted: “Stop the suburbanization of Detroit!”

Duggan responded in stride and didn’t seem fazed by the outbursts.

“Alright,” he said as a protester was removed at the beginning of the hour-long speech. “I’m a great believer in free speech, but that was a little much.”

Chief of Staff Alexis Wiley
Chief of Staff Alexis Wiley

Duggan’s chief of staff, Alexis Wiley, said the city offered invitations to numerous groups and didn’t want to accept people solely on their opinion of the mayor.

“We decided to open it up to more people,” Wiley said, noting that only five of the roughly 3,000 people disrupted the speech. “This is what democracy looks like. I don’t think the mayor regretted” the protesters, who also gathered outside of the speech.

adrienne ayers
Protester Adrienne Ayers

Adrienne Ayers, one of the protesters, said she’s “beyond tired” of black people not getting fair opportunities in a city that is more focused on downtown and Midtown and the increasing number of wealthier suburbanites who are moving to Detroit.

“Black futures never mattered to him, and everything is paved in lives,” Ayers told me about Duggan after the address. “The people keep eating this shit. Surprised they aren’t sick from it yet.”

The protests were staged by young people from the Detroit chapter of the Black Youth Project (BYP) 100, Black Lives Matter Detroit, Raiz Up, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management and the Detroit Light Brigade.

“Based on the way (Gov.) Rick Snyder, Mike Duggan and their emergency manager have allocated resources, their vision of Detroit doesn’t include poor and black people,” Antonio Cosme of Raiz Up said after the speech.

Duggan took issue with supporting Snyder’s use of emergency managers, but e-mail records suggest Duggan was not exactly an opponent of state intervention. When Motor City Muckraker formally requested e-mails between Duggan and former Detroit Emergency Manager Kevin Orr, the city demanded more than $12,000.

“I am more against emergency managers than anyone I’ve met,” Duggan insisted as a protester was removed.During the speech, Duggan even said he was considering suing the bankruptcy consultants, who raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars while understating the pension debt.

“Many Detroiters – especially black Detroiters – aren’t experiencing the ‘revitalization’ of greater downtown,” said Dakarai Carter, an organizer from BYP100. “Millions of dollars are being invested there, while our neighborhoods deal with disinvestment resulting in a lack of community services and resources. We are disrupting business as usual because we know that cities thrive on democratic control and shared access to resources.”

Ayers, of Black Lives Matter Detroit, added: “The idea that emergency management ‘worked’ in Detroit is absurd. If Mike Duggan really cared about the future of this city he would stand up for the lives of black Detroiters like Kevin Matthews, who was killed by a Dearborn police officer, and those whose water is shut off and houses are foreclosed on every day. Instead Duggan’s policies destabilize neighborhoods to make room for corporate interests.”

Duggan insisted that “every neighborhood matters,” citing the demolition of more than 8,000 houses, a crackdown on gun violence and his involvement in improving the deteriorating condition of Detroit schools.

“The best way to handle the problem is to grow the city,” Duggan said during the speech.

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.

  • LAHeat

    It’s amazing that those who are loudest and attempt to trample on the 1st Amendnent rights of others claim to have all the “answers” but bear none of the responsibility!

  • collegechick

    I’m confused about his lack of knowledge of the pension debt. Wasn’t it him who had the city take $1000 or more from each city workers pensions to pay on detours Detroit’s “debts.” I remember this happening like a couple of years ago during his term.

  • Dtr of Irish Mother

    You don’t “grow the city” by demolishing the city. Tens of thousands of homes are being torn down and nothing is going up–no affordable or low income housing. This is what is needed in a city where 40% of households are below the Federal Poverty Level. If only Mr. Duggan would work on creating a decent city for those of us who already live here, new residents wold come.

    • Shatner

      technically you are wrong about the “grow the city” logic, detroit has shrunk by at least 5% since 2010 or around 40,000+ less residents. There is estimated to be around 670,000 people now in the city. So the glut of empty housing and service buildings only continues to grow. To actually grow the city it needs to be attractive to the qualities that spur growth and among all the issues with leadership and city hall, the obvious blight is one of many major issues that turns growth away. I agree affordable housing is needed, but jobs, income and livable safe neighborhoods are needed too.Truth of the matter is if you are expecting your city leadership to bring a gift of affordable housing, you are waiting on something that will never come, this is not in their character, what is is corruption and self interest. The time is now for Detroiters to move toward betterment with as little official involvement as possible.

  • DAdams

    Agree whole heartedly. It makes no sense that blacks are the highest minority in Detroit yet many have to go into the suburbs across 8 Mile, across Lahser across Telegraph to find work. While non citizens from nearby suburbs(predominantly white) are welcome with open arms and given more work opportunities in the city. Furthermore Detroit is SO MUCH MORE than Downtown and Midtown. Downtown and Midtown are tourist attractions and they also are very ethnically diverse areas. But what about neighborhoods like Brightmoor? Mack and Bewick area? Michnichols and Woodward? These are just a FEW of the Detroit neighborhoods that are ignored by city officials. BLACK PEOPLE occupy most of these areas. Why cant they receive protection and rebuilding? Cuz white people dont live there? And Duggan is so into the reconstruction of downtown when our Detroit Public Schools are rotting from the inside out. They cant even pay the teachers. These children are forced to be educated in a horrible, unfinanced system. Old books, rotting buildings and no resources to thrive. But we need another bridge downtown. Im praying for my city. But everything stated by these activists is definitely true

    • David Becker

      I live in Detroit, I do not have the same protection as other neighborhoods either. Hmmmm I am white. Only the very affluent neighborhoods get the protection. Why they pay extra for it in the form of a special assessment. I live in Detroit yet work outside, why, that is where my job is. What the difference. Why cry race. The issue is to get the city populated with people that can and do pay their bills. Who care what the color of their skin is, I sure do not. As long as they maintain their property, are considerate of others, I do not care if I have black neighbors, purple neighbors, yellow neighbor’s, etc. The city has nothing to do with DPS, Schools are run independent of city government in almost all communities in Michigan. That is a separate problem. Gentrification is not the enemy. So why create it. We all just want to get along, rebuild Detroit into a great city of diversity and caring people. If you do not like it, move. The power should belong to the residents regardless of race. Throw that card out and watch what happens. People from all walks of life will join in for the common good.

  • dirtydog1776

    Detroit blacks and their allies have had numerous opportunities to rebuild the city, but have squandered and stolen the money given to them. Now they still want more and the right to run the city. What a bunch of losers. Maybe if the Mayor was corrupt, used city money to buy drugs, limos and prostitutes, like the former mayors, these people would be happy?

    • nolimitdetroiter

      At least we still have “da fist”. That’ll show the world where Detroit stands.

  • I live in Brightmoor, have most of my life. I think we owe it to the people who stuck it OUT through all these terrible years that has brought us to where we are now. The new model is an affront to these residents who are being poorly represented in this new Detroit.

  • bebow

    Third World Detroit has spoken. As I said, there is no meaningful difference between Detroit and Flint or Ferguson. What’s happened here and there is morally depraved in exactly the same way.

  • Shatner

    why is suburbanization wrong? Detroit could stand to physically shrink in size to 1/3 of it’s land mass, could stand to literally redraw the map and annex parts of itself into smaller townships. On the other hand is this really a veiled pushback against Detroit proper becoming racially diverse? Do these people want the neighborhoods to remain rotted crime infested crapholes? The key to rebuilding Detroit into a viable city is to establish itself in such a way to attract corporations and businesses that will provide jobs for a capable workforce. Without this, the ground beneath the city would still be farmland. The role of the government is to establish and maintain a safe environment to live and work, nurture and lure an educated population, and populate city offices with individuals of capable intellect and honesty, free of corruption. Lastly provide as few barriers to business and residents to prosper, live, and work within the city. If you read all those things with a sarcastic tone or a mental response of denial, then you agree the D has a long way yet to go. Oh and to the “race” or “class” point, these requirements for renaissance might actually include a population that is more racially or financially diverse than the city currently is, there is no way around that, and it’s not a bad thing either. To the mayor, Duggan is no saint, or savant for that matter, but I think the people are just directing anger wherever they can shine the light. Honestly, I dont blame them but yelling at him does nothing more than get an article in the paper while going in one Duggan ear out the other. Nothing will change by simply standing and yelling especially at him. He is not bright enough, honest enough or does he actually have the grit it takes to change anything. His body language says everything, his deeds the same. He’s weak and ineffectual. Those activist groups need to look inward, individuals posses the ability for change, don’t wait on the government.

    • Rashad Thomas

      Agree with your 3rd paragraph. The 2nd highlights the problem. The administrations needs to not only attract businesses but revitalize neighborhoods. Why create a city with such high relative deprivation. Create multiple business hubs throughout the city instead of one that is just downtown adjacent. Chicago is built that way and just lumped their crime problems into small neighborhoods and essentially created warzones. There are historical ramifications to how Detroit became to lack diversity, and those who stuck it out deserve an opportunity to participate in its revitalization.

      • “Why create a city with such high relative deprivation. Create multiple business hubs throughout the city instead of one that is just downtown adjacent.”

        Totally agree with you. However, look where we’re starting from! Think of it like an invasion. First you establish a beachhead, then you push in and establish another hub. So on and so forth. The progress has been great, but let’s remember that’s it’s not going to be overnight.

        • Rashad Thomas

          Those plans should be made public if they exist. Long time residents are seeing some heavy foreshadowing and its premise is exclusion.

          • I don’t know how concrete the plans could be at this point. Detroit’s neighborhoods didn’t get where they are/were overnight. Just as Detroit’s industrial base didn’t grow overnight.

            All that said, I’ve already seen improvements in many of the neighborhoods I frequent. I’ve seen changes, too. They are small, but perceptible. This is how the neighborhoods are going to come back. Like any battle, it will take place on the margins and in small increments.

            Don’t expect, and be suspicious of, any large scale investment in the neighborhoods. Before you can invest in the neighborhoods people needs jobs. Once the employment base is built things can really start to change in the neighborhoods. Detroit’s unemployment rate is still startlingly high. It’s getting better, but there’s still more work to be done.

  • javierjuanmanuel

    What resources are not being shared because of race?

    • Amber Greene


      • bebow

        Law enforcement. Oh, Duggie is going to make the DPD respond to complaints about scrapping now that our neighborhoods are torn to shreds with nothing left to scrap from them. He’s probably only talking about downtown and Midtown anyway.

        • Suzanne Scoville

          Oh wow. Yeah, a little too late. I called so many times to try to prevent scrapping in my neighborhood. The only person that responded in a timely manner was M. L. Elrick.

      • Shatner

        considering less than 10% of the residents are white thats a pretty easy and broad statement to make, on racial lines.

      • Ok, I’ll bite. Why do you say that?

  • javierjuanmanuel

    What resources are not being shared because of race?