PRESS RELEASE: Detroit Will Breathe is calling for the immediate release of Meeko Williams and for officers who brutalized protesters to be named and fired.

Detroit Will Breathe is holding a press conference at 4:15 pm at Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, 1441 St Antoine, demanding the immediate release of Will “Meeko” Williams. Approaching 72 hours after his arrest, Williams is being unlawfully detained as a political prisoner at the Detroit Detention Center. Williams was arrested along with seven other community leaders from Detroit Will Breathe and other organizations Friday evening while protesting the murder of Hakeem Littleton at the hands of police. Williams’ lawyers are filing an emergency writ of habeus corpus for his immediate release. Detroit Will Breathe demands the immediate release of Williams and all political prisoners.

Friday afternoon, Detroit Will Breathe and other organizations joined community members at San Juan and McNicholls, the site of the shooting, to demand an investigation into Littleton’s death, the release of the names of the officers who fired their weapons, and the release of videos recording Littleton’s murder. Police refused to communicate with the crowd and removed Littleton’s body without conducting a thorough investigation. As the crowd chanted, riot police began to line up in the middle of the residential block on San Juan just north of McNicholls. Police banging batons on shields advanced on the line of protestors, hitting some protestors with batons and ramming others with shields. Several protestors were hospitalized due to their encounters with police. Detroit Will Breathe has documented injuries to members of the crowd including: a head laceration, a fractured pelvis, other lacerations that required medical attention, concussions, bruised ribs, head injuries from shields, burns from tear gas canisters thrown at close range, and a pregnant woman bludgeoned in the abdomen with a baton. Several protestors reported having the wind knocked out of them and not being able to breathe for several minutes. Protestors trying to protect other protestors who had been pushed to the ground from getting trampled were targeted for beatings. Photo evidence shows officers holding Nakia Wallace in a chokehold, several officers pinning down and putting knees on multiple necks and backs of protestors, and Tristan Taylor with an officer’s knee on his neck.

Protestors who were arrested were kept in close quarters with other prisoners, despite social distancing laws due to the global pandemic. “It looked like a slave ship,” Lloyd Simpson of Detroit Will Breathe said “Bodies piled on each other, no space. It was terrible. And there were empty cells, too.” Arrestees indicated similar conditions of caged prisoners in both the women’s and men’s sections.

When the movement calls for defunding the police, it means that the conditions that led to Littleton’s death should never have been possible. We see time and time again the interactions between police and Black and Brown people ending in violence and death. The brutal force protestors were met with by DPD instead of care and explanation is a clear example of the treatment dispensed in our communities every single day by police. Their response to us is in fact what made us come to the streets in the first place.

Police violence against protesters should never have been a response. The continued detaining of Meeko Williams is a further attempt to harm and harass Black people and suppress the movement. We will not stand for this continued harassment of protestors. We demand Williams’ immediate release and all charges against protestors dropped immediately. Additionally, we call for the naming and firing of all officers involved in the brutal assault of protestors.