After being singled out by the Ypsilanti Police Department on June 18, 2015 at a demonstration and vigil for the Emmanuel 9, I was snatched and detained in their jail overnight. I was released the morning of June 19th with a ticket for impeding traffic.
This was to my surprise and dismay. Having been wrongfully detained, I made a decision to challenge the ticket in court. This was my second mistake. My first mistake had been to speak up and speak out against a system of oppression and aggression that is woven deep into the historical fabric of life in Ypsilanti.
My court date was scheduled for Wednesday, July 15, at District Court 14A-2 in downtown Ypsi, Kirk W. Tabbey presiding. As of July 14th, I was made aware by my lawyer that no other charges were pending. Upon arrival at court the next day, to my further surprise and dismay I learned that two more charges had been issued by Ypsilanti Assistant City Attorney Jesse O’Jack, of Barr, Anhut & Associates.
There are many questions to be asked and answered about this case: moral questions, legal questions—but above all, emotional and ethical questions regarding freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and our freedom to challenge a mundane status quo of biased authority in Ypsilanti.
All I had to do was shut up. All I had to do was allow myself to be deemed less than a citizen, and to obey the arbitrary protocols of a police force that lacks sensitivity to and understanding about the community it is sworn to serve, and one which fails to demonstrate a desire to engage people with civility grounded in principle, rather than with a rat pack mentality and abrasive power.
How could a City Council that prides itself on diversity, restraint, and the nurturing of community-centered values, allow this to happen without a single rebuttal? How can it sit back and passively spectate this kind of disregard for civil liberties?
What vendetta against activists, organizers, and the outspoken has the City of Ypsilanti got? Who does it serve when a law enforcement agency and its legal representatives are permitted to make a spectacle and example of grassroots agitators and leaders?
I have no criminal record. I have never been arrested as an adult. I am a taxpaying, community-involved Ypsilantian who supports and upholds every ethical measure of good in this city … and yet this happened to me.
My desire for this writing is not only to call attention to the passivity of local leaders and stakeholders; it is also to alert my comrades, neighbors, brothers, sisters, and any others that this can also happen to you, as long as “law enforcement” in Ypsilanti is permitted to act as if social justice activism and black skin are forms of the criminal.
Here is the question I have been asking myself lately: “Is all this activism worth it?”
The only answer that continues to well up from inside me—and from memories of the souls of slaves, of the heartaches of the downtrodden, of the continuing inequality of the misrepresented—is Hell yes. Hell yes. Hell yes.
Beyond any discussion of perspectives and opinions preconditioned by implicit bias and buttressed by local power structures, is a need for morality checks, political education, and for even more members of the Ypsilanti community to open their eyes to local manifestations of a very universal injustice.
All things shall come to pass in time, and may the spirit of the people endure forever.
In love, respect, and solidarity,