Sometimes civil disobedience works.
Before demolition crews arrived this morning, Aaron Timlin climbed on the roof of a house in Detroit to prevent the Land Bank from razing the abandoned home at 16th and Ferry on the west side.
A standoff with police lasted about three hours as Timlin, who lives across the street, insisted he would not come down until the Land Bank agreed not to demolish the city-owned house in the Northwest Goldberg neighborhood. Neighbors came out to support him.
“I’m just asking that the Land Bank not tear down this house,” Timlin said, perched on the roof.
One officer responded, “Who are you to ask us for anything?”
Four to five police cars were at the scene.
While on the roof, Timlin negotiated a deal with the Land Bank to stop the demolition. The Land Bank agreed to delay demolition by two weeks so the protester or his neighbors can buy the house for a price that has not yet been determined.
Neighbors celebrated the successful protest.
The house is one of five vacant homes slated for demolition within a three-block radius of the neighborhood, according to neighbors. They said the neighborhood is coming back and can be salvaged instead of demolished.
Midway through the protest, Detroit police illegally forced the media to leave the block – a clear violation of the First Amendment. But after Motor City Muckraker notified the police administration of the violation, officers were told to let the media and neighbors return.
Police Chief James Craig has improved relations with the media by providing lawful access on public space, as long as reporters and photographers don’t impede police.
City officials acknowledged they should have spoken with neighbors before deciding to demolish the house.
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.