Detroit cop threatens to arrest protesters for ‘swearing in front of women’

Protesters marched to rally against Wayne County spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a new jail in downtown Detroit. Photo by Steve Neavling.

A Detroit cop threatened to arrest protesters for “swearing in front of women and children” because they were chanting “Fuck Trump” outside of the Wayne County Jail.

The officer was referring to a 120-year-old law that made it a crime to use “indecent, immoral, obscene, vulgar or insulting language in the presence or hearing of any woman or child.”

There was just one problem: The antiquated law was repealed in December 2015 after the Michigan Court of Appeals 13 years earlier declared it violated the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Mertilla Jones, whose 7-month granddaughter Aiyana Jones was fatally shot by a Detroit cop in a botched 2010 raid, was among the protesters rallying Friday against Wayne County building a new jail.

“So it’s illegal to swear but you can kill children?” Jones asked the officer.

Mertilla Jones, the grandmother of Aiyana Jones. Photo by Steve Neavling.

Protesters had gathered outside the Wayne County Jail shortly after 5 p.m., chanting “Fuck Trump” and “Fuck Jails,” as music blared from a speaker. Through narrow windows in the jail, inmates raised their fists in solidarity with the protesters.

After about 5 minutes, a handful of five cops arrived and turned off the music. That was when the officer threatened to arrest protesters for profanity. Aware of their First Amendment rights, defiant protesters shouted louder, tempting the officer, who eventually left without making any arrests.

The protest was organized by the Michigan Abolition Alliance  and No New Wayne County Jail, which advocate alternatives to incarceration.

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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.