BLM Demonstrations Continue In Chelsea
The normal back and forth whooshing noises made by cars driving up and down Chelsea's Main Street were made louder by horns honking mostly in the support of the thirty-ninth weekly Black Lives Matter demonstration at the corner of Middle and Main. Sunday's BLM event went just the same way it always does, Sunday, according to the half a dozen or so participants.
“Ninety-nine times out of a hundred we’ll get a wave, a thumbs up, a peace sign, a honk, flashed lights. Sometimes if their windows are down, we’ll get a whoop,” Organizer David Bloom said.
Most of the cars passing through downtown Chelsea on that bright and chilly winter afternoon ignored the signs. Perhaps a third of the passing vehicles either waved or honked in support of the protest. Only a few passing motorists voiced their disapproval of the demonstration.
Chelsea resident Laura Damschroder said that she has long been interested in supporting racial justice causes, but was shocked to see the response from the Chelsea Police Department against a racial justice protest in Piece Park last summer. That led her, in part, to join the weekly demonstrations at the heart of Chelsea.
The Chelsea Police Department said in a press release, Friday, that the reason the police responded was because the demonstrators failed to ask for certain roads to be closed, and that a number of assaults were reported. While Toth emphasized the public's right to protest, demonstrate on sidewalks and protests down the street if they request a permit, those who didn’t get proper permits would be documented and possibly see “enforcement action.”
“The Chelsea Police Department very deliberately and purposely chose the most benign and least severe enforcement option at their disposal, a civilian infraction traffic violation under state law, for impeding traffic,” the press release said. “Part of the reasoning for this option was that since you there involved, this enforcement was not criminal and would not adversely affect the youthful violators being accepted into college or applying for employment in the future.”
Damschorder expressed alarm at the number of citations. According to the city, 47 civil infractions have been given to 29 people, including 7 juveniles. A dozen of them have been “adjudicated” and two have been dismissed, according to the press release.
The Washtenaw County Prosecutor declined to comment on any of the ongoing cases, other than acknowledging that the cases exist. Charges have been dropped on one alleged assault, but one other case – the People v Kayla Vaillancourt – is still being considered, where a counter protestor is accused of assaulting a minor who participated in the BLM demonstration.
One case “We are prosecuting,” “I can confirm that we have charged Kayla Vaillancourt for the assault on the minor, the adult that allegedly assaulted a minor,” Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit told the Sun Times News by phone, Sunday.
Chelsea City Council voted
to recommend that the CPD cease all investigations into the protests and refund all citations at the February 16 meeting.
David Bloom organized the weekly protests over Facebook, email and Twitter. He told the Sun Times News that this protest was the embodiment of what a demonstration demanding racial equity in policing looks like in small town America.
“We’re here to make it safe. Right now it might not be safe to think new thoughts, to wave. We’re looking to move people a little bit along the path. We’re not looking for a conversion event, we’re just looking to make it a little safer for people to think a little kinder about their fellow peoples. The idea of safety beings with us, and spread it to everybody who goes by,” Bloom said.
The Black Lives Matter protests have been highly politicized. Bloom’s aim in staging BLM protests in a small, rural community like Chelsea is to put a human face on the protests to people who might be wary of the movement, by bringing it into the general lives of people who might not otherwise be exposed to it.