After seven nights of protests and dozens of arrests, protesters’ slow march across Detroit’s MacArthur Bridge served as a moment of striking symbolism.
DETROIT, MI — Protests in Detroit over the death of George Floyd moved Friday afternoon to one of its most iconic landmarks: the bridge connecting the city to Belle Isle in the Detroit River.
The slow, mostly silent march across the MacArthur Bridge, northeast of downtown, followed seven nights of protests in Detroit that led to a city-imposed curfew and dozens of arrests.
A second, more vocal group of protesters chanted as they marched Friday afternoon and early evening through downtown Detroit.
Demonstrations and unrest spread to cities around the U.S. following Floyd’s May 25 death. A white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into the neck of the handcuffed black man who pleaded for air, even after he stopped moving.
Detroit historian Ken Coleman told The Detroit News that the bridge procession was reminiscent of the 1965 civil rights march over the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama — a day now referred to as “Bloody Sunday” after police attacked marchers.
“The Edmund Pettus bridge in connection with African Americans and police brutality seems to resonate with marchers,” Coleman said. “I think it does create for a dramatic setting, going over a bridge from its start to its end does provide some symbol of moving forward or overcoming and something that has a start point and completion point.”
Detroit’s Deputy Chief on Bridging the Divide
Detroit police officers joined marchers as they crossed the 2,200-foot-long bridge.
“The secret sauce is hope,” Deputy Chief Todd Bettison told WXYZ-TV. “Residents in the city of Detroit see this as their city and we still have hope here. When you don’t have hope, and hope has left, that’s when individuals will tear a city down.”
Bettison also knelt with protesters earlier this week outside the city’s police headquarters.
Belle Isle is a state park. State police closed off traffic to the popular recreational island during Friday’s march.
About 100 vehicles drove from Detroit to police headquarters in suburban cities on Thursday to protest Floyd’s slaying and what organizers called mistreatment of African Americans in those communities.
The motorcade included a hearse, casket and pallbearers for the casket, said Sam Riddle, political director of Michigan’s National Action Network, which has been organizing protests in and around Detroit.
“We get weary, but we are never worn out from seeking justice,” Riddle told The Associated Press Friday. “We will keep confronting systemic racism and injustice until perpetrators of the same change policies, or we force them out and get policy changes that put people first.”