Tag Archives: police brutality

Young was a Powerful Advocate for Detroit, But As Those Before Him, His Strategy was Flawed

In 2013, America hasn’t quite figured out how to solve our problems, but we do know we are in real trouble. We also don’t know quite how to get a politician to share a vision that we can follow, one that is as large as the problem that we face. So we have flip-flopped through a few election cycles trying to flush someone, anyone, out of their safety zone, like flushing a political pheasant out of its Party roost. Until the path is clear, America will continue to be polarized.

The problem is that the path can remain unclear for decades, damaging the lives of its citizens. Detroit began its decline in the 1950s. In 1950, Detroit’s strategic plan included reinforcing property values downtown with a new campus, hospital, civic center and building an extensive highway system through town. Detroit’s plan nowhere near met the needs of its citizens, yet it was the path followed for the next three decades.

In 1950, city planners did not talk about an employment bubble caused by two world wars and a depression that would have to normalize with decreasing employment. No one talked of plans to correct the excessive reach of unions due to inordinate power caused by the employment bubble in Detroit’s concentrated auto industry. No one talked about how Detroit had become landlocked and how future growth would either have to come from demolishing neighborhoods or from building plants elsewhere. No one talked about changing technology that made existing plants obsolete, or about what impact new highways would have on neighborhoods. And no one talked of how to correct the institutional racism that had deteriorated race relations for so long.

The city would soon violently explode, dysfunctionally polarizing the city for decades. And yet, the signs were all there for someone to paint the vision of what was needed to reverse course and save the city. Instead, in 1967, Detroit went through a bloody 5-day riot.

Instead of voting on a big vision to chart Detroit’s path through these new challenges, Detroit’s elections of 1970 and 1974 would choose between polarized paths of either hard lined policing of high crime or racial integration of the police force in response to its brutality. Police brutality needed correcting and crime needed to be dramatically reduced. Yet these problems were symptoms of a much larger problem that required a more global solution.

In 1970 and in 1974, the Republicans would put forth law and order white candidates to crack down on crime and the Democrats would place Black social reformers on the ballot. Both elections, both whites and blacks would vote over 90% for their candidate. Roman Gribbs, a Republican, barely won by 7,000 votes in 1970, the last year that whites would have a majority of voters in Detroit. Gribbs won but his hardline policing policies did not reverse the murder trend as Detroit murders climbed steadily from 439 in 1970 to 714 in 1974.

In 1974, Coleman Young, the Democratic candidate, promised to reform the police department and won by 7,000 votes. Mr. Young did implement his campaign promise to integrate the police department, and would serve Detroit as its first African American Mayor for the next 20 years.

Young, who had been a successful activist for racial equality, continued his advocacy throughout his 5 terms in office. He also pushed for economic revitalization of his city and was instrumental providing the political muscle to support downtown developers. However, 50 years of political choices including those of Young’s 20 years did not solve the racial divide that held back the city nor did they change the trajectory of Detroit’s financial downfall.

None could have been a stronger advocate of the cause of African American citizens of Detroit than Coleman Young, yet by 1993 their plight was exacerbated. None could have been a better consolidator of political and financial support for city projects, yet these major projects did little to turn around the city’s blight. Detroit imploded when other major cities turned around from the rust belt years. Why?

The plan was flawed. The root causes of white flight remained unsolved. The root causes of racial injustices remained unresolved. The root causes of economic implosion and city blight were not reversed. And they remain to be fixed to this day.

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Filed under American Governance, American Politics, Jobs, Racism, social trajectory

Police Restraint Will Mitigate Future Violence

In the greater realm of civil defense, homeland security, terror response, community and business continuity, and government continuity, the agencies of Homeland Security, Emergency Management, and Emergency Response have a role to play in government response to civil unrest. Certainly in mass riots that have occurred in Europe as a response to announced austerity programs, similar agencies have been involved internationally in heightened government alert.

The level of unrest to which Europe may eventually rise is yet unknown, but will emerge as the Euro Zone continues to unravel. While no-one expects countries in Europe to experience anything like what occurred in Northern Africa during the Arab Spring, Europe is nonetheless preparing for much worse events than have occurred thus far.

With this in mind, what is the size of the potential threat of civil unrest in America and what can be done through standard emergency management procedures of mitigation and preparation to reduce the likelihood of such unrest, and to prepare for adequate and proper response in the event that unrest occurs? The answer lies in determining what is the engine of unrest, how long will it persist, what outlets citizens will have for expressing their will, and what capabilities Americans will have to exercise their right of assembly in their democracy. My contention is that the answer also lies in the interplay of how authorities respond to these potential threats to civility.

As opposed to the Tea Party, in which demonstrations were more focused and directed toward political ends, this Occupy Wall Street movement seems to have deliberately steered from organized politics which it sees as part of the problem, and has instead has attempted to develop a ground swell of crowd democracy. As a result, sit-in contemporaneous councils of discussion are occurring to self discover over time the movement’s consensus of thought. This free form democracy has been seen as Anarchist or Marxist by some and thus a potential threat to civilized democracy.

America is being inundated with media that sensationalizes this less disciplined, less organized, and seemingly less responsible way of thinking. Certainly, it irritates hard working Americans to see what appear to be Anarchists disrupting traffic, shutting down businesses, harming commerce, damaging public and private property, defecating and urinating in public and the like. And just as it concerns the average citizen, it can also dislodge sensibilities of those responsible for managing crowd response.

However, when authoritative response becomes, or is perceived as becoming excessive, it feeds into the unrest. Responses such as these on the following links are now feeding into the Occupy Wall Street movement and are having the opposite effect of their intent. Rather than quelling the immediate throngs of crowds, they are feeding not only into the short term swells but are turning many otherwise passive citizens into supporters of Occupy Wall Street and potential participants in later demonstrations and clashes that could turn riotous or even deadly.

Oakland flash grenade
Police shoot demonstrator in face
Unprovoked a cameraman is shot
Bloody Occupy demonstrator
Police massive pepper spray abuse
Police brutality of students
Female protesters penned and maced
Oakland Protest war zone
Police give protester concussion
Police runs over protester
Police crackdown of veterans
Marine rants against Police brutality

In response to witnessing the initial “inappropriate” government actions, I felt it important to lay out an easily digestible context for why civil disobedience is now occurring:


My post is intended to mitigate the inundation of media hype and to place a human face on Occupy Wall Street. The movement no doubt has elements of Marxism and Anarchism within its ranks that some would find disconcerting. However, the more important and much more voluminous face of Occupy Wall Street is a disenfranchised America that has lost its voice and is attempting to find it through peaceful assembly.

With a deeper understanding of the nature of those that will increasingly fill the ranks of Occupy Wall Street, perhaps leaders in positions to determine the proper response to demonstrations will be able to redirect their forces from using tactics that appear to have overreached, and to begin to use less agitating responses that could mitigate their potential of igniting a chain of human events that might exponentially erupt into later riots and destruction as the crisis in America peaks.

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Filed under Occupy Wall Street, Social Media Democracy, social trajectory