An Open Letter to City Council President Brenda Jones
By Detroit Will Breathe organizer, Nakia R. Wallace, in response to Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones’ statements on the protests in Detroit.
I am deeply disturbed by the willingness of you, City Council President Brenda Jones, to accept the brutality and egregious behavior of the Detroit Police Department.
The ability to justify police using cars as weapons against young people seems eerily similar to justifying the killings of Aiyana Stanley Jones and Malice Green. At the time of both of their deaths some people stood with DPD. These people argued that Malice Green deserved to die because of his lifestyle. Those same people, and people like them, later argued that the family of Aiyana Stanley Jones was more responsible for her death than the Detroit Police Department because of previous interactions between police and some members of her family who didn’t even live in the same unit. In all three cases the thing that is similar is an underlying belief that Black people, and in particular poor and young Black people, are inherently guilty, that they deserve to be treated with force at every stop and that our bodies can and should be used as punching bags. Unfortunately, I expected no less from you and the others who have repeatedly failed to stand up for the youth of Detroit. You have never fought for the removal of police with guns, tasers, and other weapons from our schools. You have never stood up against school closings or police violence. And you have never opposed the closing of our libraries or funds being pillaged from us.
Yet at the same time, you and those aligned with you say that you stand with protestors and believe Black Lives Matter, but y’all don’t mean it. You have never meant it. Anyone watching the footage of officers attempting to murder young Black Detroiters, me and my brothers and sisters with no remorse who is not immediately appalled, not immediately asking questions, not even calling for, at minimum, an investigation, but instead supports the perpetrators of these assaults is questionable. Their commitment to young Detroiters, to all Detroiters — not just to Detroiters who vote, not just to Detroiters with money — is questionable. Any elected official or public servant arguing that people can be arrested and assaulted, in the city they serve, for simply protesting is questionable and needs to be held accountable.
The statement you put forth, Ms. Brenda Jones, is shameful. Not only is it ridiculous to claim that you have no responsibility to ask questions of law enforcement officials, it is absurd to assert that you can determine where people live based on their email addresses and phone numbers. The police department is made up largely of people who are not from here, yet I have heard not one word from you about what this means for Detroiters. In the mayor’s office sits the Chief outsider, yet I have heard no word from you about what this does to Detroiters.
Never once have you, Ms. Brenda Jones, argued for protections for Detroiters. You never addressed the fact that 3 out of 4 of Detroit officers live outside the city, never once questioned the fact that 70% of people who work in Detroit do not live here, while Detroiters are forced to work in neighboring cities, you have never argued for the protection of the many Detroiters who lost their homes due to foreclosures after the city intentionally overtaxed them. Where was your outrage for the disrespect done to Detroiters when Duggan — an outsider — and Kevin Orr — an outsider — came in and robbed Detroiters of local control and their pensions? Instead, you took money from Dan Gilbert — another outsider — and from Police and Fire Pension Funds in exchange for the futures of Detroiters — in exchange for my future.
It has become very clear over the years who you actually stand for and with, and it is not with the youth of Detroit or the poor. It’s not with me, Nakia Wallace, a proud Detroiter, a Cass Tech Graduate, and like you, a Wayne State graduate. You say my arrest is justified. You refuse to say I have the right to protest police brutality without being tackled, gassed, arrested and charged? I am deeply disturbed by the many ways in which you have failed this city and its young people, and I am uncertain of how you can sleep at night knowing you have abandoned the youth of the city you claim to serve.
It’s painful to see you thank the same officers who attempted to murder me and my brothers and sisters. It’s painful to see you abdicate your power and responsibility as a Black woman, as an elected official sworn to represent the people you serve. It’s painful to see you not ask questions on behalf of me, and my brothers and sisters. It is painful to see you show up on the wrong side of history time and time again while selling us out for pennies and nickels. It’s painful to see you speak on the legacy of the civil rights movement, a movement made possible and led by people protesting state and police violence against Black people, while you simultaneously condemn and ignore my voice and the voices of my brothers and sisters and the people standing beside us (something you have not yet had the courage to do).
Your failure, and the failure of other officials to stand up for us, to stand up with us, is what drove us to streets in the first place! We knew you would not do the difficult thing even though it was the right thing. We knew you would not hear the cries and pleas of the most affected, the most oppressed, who have been starved out and beaten up in this city for many years, and decide to be on our side. We knew you would fail us, because you have done it so many times before. This is why we decided to take our destiny and the fate of this city and country into our own hands. This is why today marks the 34th day we have marched through the streets of Detroit. When it is all said and done and we have won, the record will reflect who you stood with and who you are. You have betrayed the rich history of Black struggle in this city and made a mockery of your position.
With disappointment and disgust,
Nakia R. Wallace
Detroiter resident, Detroit employee, Detroit youth, the girl in the front of the marches that you claim are led by outsiders. Organizer with Detroit Will Breathe.