Editor’s Note: Attorney Tina M. Patterson, a Detroit native is the President and Director of Research at The PuLSE Institute, Detroit’s independent anti-poverty think tank. She was previously a federal government attorney with the Social Security Administration. During her stint at the Social Security Administration, she wrote legally binding decisions for administrative law judges throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. For submission inquiries contact Bankole Thompson, the Editor-in-Chief of The PuLSE Institute and the Dean of the Academy of Fellows at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’m humbled that the president of the United States would give me credit for wanting to keep law and order.”
By Tina M. Patterson, Esq
These were the words of Detroit Police Chief James Craig months ago after President Trump publicly praised Craig’s efforts as police chief in Detroit following a summer of protests stemming from the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Referring to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Trump noted that “Detroit’s doing quite well under a Democratic mayor, with Chief James Craig,” and continued, “You have a great police chief,” Trump said. “I watch him. I really like him a lot. Say hello to him. I think he’s terrific.”
Craig, a favored guest on the Fox News Network, Trump’s preferred propaganda machine, is now using an infamous Trump argument to downplay the disparities in law enforcement treatment given to white rioters in comparison to Black protestors. Following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, rather than denounce the violence caused by white supremacists who marched through the city, Trump contended both sides played an equal role.
Similarly, following the violence and insurrection at the Capitol Building, which saw a massive mob of white Trump supporters storming the building, breaking into Congressional offices, and being allowed to leave the building on their own volition without handcuffs, Craig offered a comparison to Black Lives Matter protests in Seattle to diffuse the notion that race played a difference in treatment by law enforcement officials:
“The perception is that if these were African American protesters scaling the Capitol building, that they would’ve been met with force early on,” Craig said. “But we saw what happened in Seattle, when Black Lives Matter protesters took over an entire section of the city, including the police precinct — they were met with no resistance whatsoever from police.”
Craig’s preposterous Seattle argument must be called out because the media does not fact check him and rather than question his assertions, the media instead listens and takes notes as if they were pupils receiving a lecture. That is why independent and nonpartisan mediums such as The PuLSE Institute are necessary to hold institutions, political leaders and public officials like Craig accountable when their actions mislead the public.
Allow me to deconstruct Chief Craig’s comparison of the siege on the Capitol by white mobs to the Black Lives Matter protests that occurred in Seattle as a completely misplaced argument for several blatantly distinct reasons:
First, Seattle is not the seat of power of the state of Washington; that is the city of Olympia. Therefore, there is a vast difference between Black Lives Matter occupying several city blocks in a popular city versus the home of legislative powers in Washington state, when white mobsters did just that on the legislative seat of power of the United States, the world’s leading superpower.
Second, while the occupation in Seattle was self-organized, the zone was later coordinated with the mayor of the city, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, before being disbanded. In fact, according to Mayor Durkan’s office, the zone, known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), “emerged as a gathering place where community members can demand change of their local, state, and federal government.” Additionally, Mayor Durkan’s office stated that “While there have been inaccurate and misleading depictions of the CHOP from the President and some national media, the City believes first amendment activities can continue while also maintaining public safety and allowing access for residents and businesses who operate in the area.” Further, while Craig painted the picture of the occupation as a random act without provocation, the occupation occurred after several days of police violence in the city, which led to mayor banning use of tear gas for 30 days, which police disregarded and broke only three days into the ban, including macing a 7-year-old child in the face during the ban.
Third, Black Lives Matter protests have been largely peaceful in Detroit, which Craig admitted, as well as throughout the country. In fact, the Black Lives Matter movement, a protest movement, has never been legitimately described as domestic terrorism- a term which Craig himself used to describe the siege that occurred on the Capitol.
Fourth, Black Lives Matter does not stand for Nazism or Confederate ideals. The entire movement was birthed to protest the killing of African Americans through state-sanctioned violence at the hands of police officers largely held unaccountable for their actions, as well as white vigilantes who likewise face little or no consequences for their taking of Black life.
The movement also stands as a defiant statement against the heinous crimes that were committed against humanity during slavery and the Holocaust. In contrast, the rioters on the Capitol were pictured wearing Anti-Semitic t-shirts, including slogans such as “Camp Auschwitz,” in reference to the notorious Nazi German concentration camp during the Holocaust, and “6MWE,” a despicable acronym meaning 6 million Jews were not enough, in reference to the 6 millions Jews who were exterminated during the Holocaust genocide. The Confederate flag also flew proudly through the halls of the Capitol building, a universal symbol of racism, slavery, and hatred against African Americans, the exact anti-thesis of Black Lives Matter. Given the presence of these extreme symbols of racism and white supremacy, which are never flown at Black Lives Matter protests, Detroit’s top cop James Craig should be ashamed to even utter any comparison.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Black Lives Matter doesn’t call for the assassination of politicians. In contrast, recent reports revealed that at least one rioter was equipped with heavy ammunition and allegedly proclaimed intent to shoot Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi live on television. Additionally, law enforcement officials detonated strategically placed pipe bombs at the Republican and Democratic headquarters, and several individuals carried zip ties with them.
If the Seattle reference was his primary evidence as an issue in litigation, Chief Craig would lose the case before any court of competent jurisdiction, along with being laughed out of the courtroom and being sanctioned for bringing a frivolous suit.
Before he opens his mouth, Chief Craig needs to start doing his homework to a media that is readily gullible to everything he says without challenging his assertions. In fact, some prominent media including the Washington Post have raised the issue of why journalists rely on the accounts of police departments when incidents take place without independently verifying their sources in police headquarters. Another example, is the Los Angeles Times, which in a September 27, 2020 editorial admitted that during its coverage of the 1965 Watts Riots, it, “too often took a patronizing view of Black Angelenos, most egregiously in a piece called ‘Police Brutality: State of Mind?’ that used selective examples and unexamined quotes from police officers to heavily imply that police brutality was a thing of the past.”
Many police departments have gotten away with so much because the media runs with their account of events and does not fact check them.
Any reporter who did the homework, even an inquisitive journalism intern, would easily discover that the Black Lives Matter Seattle case that Chief Craig cited was an erroneous example, with no justification to compare a small swath of city blocks to white mobsters having the nation’s Capital under siege.
Chief Craig speaks with complete ignorance and disregard of the blatant realities of race and white privilege when it comes to police encounters and the criminal justice system, a dangerous mindset to helm the police department of the nation’s largest Black city.
Despite Craig’s false insistence to the contrary, the differences in police reaction could not have been more glaring and were readily visible for the world to witness. Black Lives Matter protests were largely peaceful protests. A case in point was during their march in Washington DC where they were met by a militarized force that was quickly deployed to deal with the Black Lives Matter protesters, while Capitol police showed much deference and restraint with little force to deal with the overwhelmingly white mob that attacked the nation’s seat of power. During the Black Lives Matter demonstrations around the nation, there were numerous images and videos of police heavily armed in full riot gear, readily deploying canisters of tear gases, accosting protestors in unmarked vehicles, arresting and using force on members of the media, and even running through crowds of protestors using police vehicles, including here in Detroit, a heinous maneuver defended by Chief Craig and his boss Mayor Mike Duggan.
In contrast, the white mobsters that stormed the Capitol were beating police officers, including one officer who later died from an assault with a fire extinguisher. Additionally, the white mobsters attacked members of the media there to document the historic violence, and rather than militarization of police, the mobsters themselves were equipped with military gear, ammunition, and zip ties. In fact, some of the participants who breached the Capitol building are reportedly former military members and active law enforcement officials, including two Seattle police officers now under investigation for their involvement in the Capitol attack, decimating any inkling of credibility in Chief Craig’s Black Lives Matter Seattle argument now that some of members of its own law enforcement agency are being probed for ties to the domestic attack on the United States Capitol.
Further accounts from that infamous day reveal just how significantly race played a factor, once again proving Chief Craig’s argument foolish, hypocritical and unbecoming of a public official.
Several Black Capitol police officers who were on duty during the attack verified the claims that police treated the white mob with deference in comparison to Black Lives Matter protestors. One officer stated, “There’s quite a big difference when the Black Lives Matter protests come up to the Capitol…. Some officers were catering to the rioters.” The officer verified the presence of police officers around the country participating in the mob and flashing their badges as a pass for entry. The officer reported that he “got called a n****r 15 times” by the mob that day, and further condemned the disparate treatment of Black protestors by his own police force, stating “If you’re going to treat a group of demonstrators for Black Lives Matter one way, then you should treat this group the same… way. With this group you were being kind and nice and letting them walk back out.”
As the saying goes, Chief Craig has the proverbial egg all over his face now, which is what speaking too soon without all the facts will get you. Speaking with arrogance will humiliate you. Next time, Craig should keep his mouth shut on an issue where he doesn’t know where the facts are going to lead, and the media should dare him to provide evidence for his frequent baseless and illogical claims.
Additionally, Craig arrogantly speaks as if his own Detroit Police Department is a model agency for law enforcement standards, but once again, this is a patently false ideal, given the department’s current history with problematic officers and racially disparate treatment.
An investigation revealed the Detroit Police Department houses 54 officers who were found to be so untruthful that their testimony has been deemed inadmissible in court. In fact, the Detroit Police Department dominated Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s Giglio list of untruthful officers. With no update on the untruthful officers in his department, perhaps more will be added when we receive the next updated Giglio list from Worthy. Craig’s police department is also currently a defendant in federal litigation stemming from the George Floyd protests, facing allegations of excessive force, begging the question, why does Craig still have a job?
Perhaps just as President Trump praised Craig’s law and order policing tactics, Mayor Duggan may feel the same way about Craig and his false propaganda. The words and behavior displayed by Craig demonstrate the hypocrisy of Mayor Duggan and the reason why Black people around the country are growing tired of Democrats like Duggan who hesitate to come around the message of Black Lives Matter movement.
All hope is not lost, however, as there are law enforcement executives who will speak out and condemn racially disparate treatment by the police. Once such law enforcement leader in Southeast Michigan is William T. Riley, the chief of police in the city of Inkster, a predominantly African American city. Riley, the former police chief of Selma, Alabama, the cradle of the civil rights movement, speaks truthfully about the failures of law enforcement to treat Black people with the same respect as their white counterparts.
In fact, Chief Riley, who is a senior fellow at the Academy of Fellows at The PuLSE Institute, where he is focused on poverty and criminal justice transformation, said in the wake of the attack on the Capitol that, “This betrayal of America goes deep. All of the traitors involved must be uncovered and punished to the fullest extent of the law.” He has spoken out publicly about the heavy-handed law enforcement that greets Black Lives Matter demonstrations and the soft response that the white mob received during their siege on the Capitol.
The nation’s future on criminal justice transformation lies with the work that law enforcement leaders like Chief Riley are doing in Inkster and other places, not the law and order example of Chief Craig, which Trump lifted as an example. If the Biden/Harris administration is serious about true criminal justice reform, they should be looking to the conscientious Chief Riley and others like him around the country.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig, a Black man, is a national disgrace. He should be ashamed to utter any words daring to compare Black Lives Matter to a group that spews the racist ideology of white supremacy and resorts to violent means to further that philosophy.
Mayor Mike Duggan has allowed his police chief free rein to saturate mainstream media with right wing insults and talking points disparaging Black Lives Matter protest groups, and Craig now has the audacity to compare the attempted failed coup at the Capitol building of the United States to the occupation of several city blocks in a Northwestern city, in defense of law enforcement.
There is absolutely no comparison to any occupation or property damage to the criminal act that was visited upon the highest and most powerful legislative body in the world. To even suggest the two groups have anything in common, and to deny the glaring disparity of treatment between Black protestors being handcuffed and beaten in the streets with white mobsters who were escorted out of the Capitol with no arrest simply demonstrates Craig’s willful blindness to justice and broken moral compass. An individual with that dangerous combination has no business being the chief law enforcement executive of any city. And any mayor that allows this kind of behavior bears equal amount of national shame.
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