Protesters, police coordinate peaceful march in Troy in wake of George Floyd murder

A protestor speaks to a crowd of several hundred people in the Troy Public Library parking lot Monday, June 1. (Photo by Justin Cooper)

by JUSTIN COOPER

Several hundred people marched from the Somerset Collection to the Troy Public Library and back Monday evening in a protest against police violence following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

The protest was organized by Black Activist Mobility Network, a “black empowerment movement” that was founded the previous day. BAMN’s leadership is composed of college students “from all over Michigan,” said Cameron Simpson, 18, one of its five female leaders.

“Troy is an affluent suburb where black people are underrepresented,” Simpson said of why BAMN selected the city for its demonstration.

Troy police made contact with BAMN about two hours before the scheduled start time of 5 p.m. They coordinated with the organizers to establish a route for the march that would be blocked to the rush hour traffic. Three police vehicles escorted the crowd down Big Beaver Road, through an I-75 construction zone and into the municipal complex, where the protesters turned into the library parking lot.

Several speakers took turns at a megaphone atop a construction storage container where they condemned the “system,” calling for racial equality, police abolition, voter turnout, and support for black transgender people.

After about 30 minutes, some were shouting to resume marching and a steady stream of protesters began retracing their steps to the Somerset Collection.

All parking entrances at the Somerset Collection were blocked by concrete barricades draped with signs reading “Peace, Love, and Freedom of Speech.”

Despite the violent conflict between police and protesters which has marked similar events in recent days, Monday’s protest in Troy was almost entirely peaceful, culminating in officers kneeling in solidarity with a group of protesters near where the event began.

The only report of violence came when a 68-year-old Troy man intentionally ran his car into a protester on northbound Coolidge Highway near the end of the event. Protesters occupied the Big Beaver intersection, where the man proceeded through a green light, striking a protester, who was uninjured. The man was arrested for felonious assault.

“It wasn’t a situation where he plowed through people at a high rate of speed,” Troy Sgt. Meghan Lehman said.

About 20 officers were deployed to assist and monitor the protest, according to Lehman, as well as 20-30 additional county and state officers on standby through a mutual aid agreement. She said the “vast majority” of protesters had left the area by 9 p.m., two hours after its scheduled end. The protesters’ path into the municipal complex took them past several signs planted in the grass advising 6-foot social distancing to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Throughout the march, a man on a bicycle pedaled alongside the crowd with a supply of free facemasks.

At its meeting the same night, Troy City Council unanimously passed a resolution brought by councilmember Dr. Theresa Brooks lauding Troy’s diversity, its police department and pledging to embody “integrity, accountability and professionalism.”

Another protest is scheduled to begin 5 p.m. on Friday, June 5 at Athens High School followed by a march down Big Beaver Road. The protest and march is being organized by Athens students.