Vigilante Privilege


A group of anti-racism activists participating in a demo outside City Hall on August 4, had a posse of YPD officers descend upon them after a call by Haab’s patron Steve Pierce, an Ypsilanti landlord, anti-taxation activist, surveillance afficionado—and COPAC president.

A few things stand out for us from this experience:

—Officer Brendan Harrison, whom some of us recall for getting in our faces hysterically at the very first RAW demo, about two years ago—he parked one of us into our spot at the library parking lot, and wanted to know why we don’t protest “black on black violence”—once again had much to say. When Jeff Clark refused to shake his hand, he called Clark rude, in spite of the fact that Clark is more than justified in having no desire to shake hands with a known harrasser of activists. Harrison asked, again, why Clark wasn’t out protesting “violence on the southside.”

—Is it a conflict of interest, or merely nepotism, when the president of the Community Policing Council calls the police to snitch on a Black activist, and a bunch of cops very quickly pull up to harrass activists, question them about the political theory on which their movement is based, then dramatically arrest one of them?

—If a Black woman called 911 to allege that Steve Pierce was doing X, Y, or Z, would 5 cops roll up, hassle Pierce, and then arrest him, based solely on the verbal testimony of this Black civilian? This question is rhetorical.

—Pierce called the cops to allege the activists were painting on the surface of the road. City Manager Lange angrily stated, once it had been announced to the Council meeting that YPD officers were outside arresting a protester: “Yes I know who Steve Pierce is. He organized the defeat of the Water Street millage!” So let’s get this straight: Pierce is militantly against initiating a tax to help keep Ypsi in the black; he’s president of the cop council; the cop council’s website is hosted by Pierce’s own servers; Pierce has got surveillance cameras hanging up around town; he dislikes street art; he appears to have a direct line to the YPD, or at least to Harrison, who is the YPD’s DDA cop . . . this reads like a poster for paranoid, vengeful, smalltown America.

—When Clark went in to Haab’s to try and converse with Pierce and his wife, to let them know that surveillant vigilantism such as Pierce’s has real-life consequences for Black activists and artists (read: the kind of people we love and support), they both seemed irate, hostile, threatening.

—Speaking of outspoken haters: they are the flipside to the very coin whose frontside is occupied by the roughly 12,000 white Ypsilantians who have not yet done a thing to advance or assist the movement for Black Lives. Which side are you on?


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