Detroit police chief dismisses judge's ruling on tactics for protests: 'Nothing has changed' 
© Getty Images

Detroit's police chief dismissed a judge’s ruling banning the department from using several tactics and equipment on "peaceful protesters" for two weeks, saying essentially “nothing has changed.”

U.S. District Judge Laurie Michelson issued a temporary restraining order on Friday barring Detroit police from employing certain tactics, The Detroit News reported.

The ruling comes after advocacy group Detroit Will Breathe filed a federal lawsuit alleging the city’s officers used "unnecessary, unreasonable and excessive force" and violated members' constitutional rights. 


Detroit Police Chief James Craig, however, said the officers don’t need to change what they’ve been doing since the judge’s order bars action against “peaceful protesters.”

"The judge’s order is no different than what we’ve always done," Craig said. "Every time we've had to use less-than-lethal force, it's been to address violence by protesters, resisting arrest, or when they've tried to take over an intersection in violation of the law. Technically, nothing has changed."

The chief told the outlet that he agrees with the judge’s ruling because it “reinforces” the department’s policy.

"We don't use force against peaceful protesters. In fact, we've allowed them to take over all lanes of streets, when technically, we didn't have to do that, because they didn't have permits,” Craig said. “But we want them to be able to express themselves, so we allowed it."

Detroit Will Breathe, however, alleged in the lawsuit that peaceful protesters have been "tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, beaten and otherwise subjected to unconstitutional excessive force, shot with rubber bullets ... put in chokeholds ... and arrested en masse without probable cause."

The ruling from Michelson, an Obama appointee, puts a 14-day moratorium on police using striking weapons like batons and shields, rubber bullets or chemical agents like tear gas and pepper spray on any individual peacefully engaging in protest or demonstrations who does not pose a physical threat to the safety of the public or police.

The order also temporarily prohibits police from arresting any demonstrators en masse without probable cause or tightening zip ties or handcuff restraints to the point where it could result in injury.

The ruling also states that police cannot place anyone in a chokehold or ram protesters with a vehicle.

Craig said his officers haven't used chokeholds and asked why many of the tactics were prohibited in the order "since they're already banned in Detroit, except in life-or-death situations."

The chief said officers are still able to arrest protesters who don’t comply with orders to disperse when they're blocking intersections and the judge's order also doesn’t prohibit use of force against those resisting arrest.

"If someone is resisting arrest, or trying to attack our officers, we will use the force that's both reasonable and necessary to overcome the resistance," he told The Detroit News. “We don't want the protesters injured, and we don't want officers injured, either."

Still, Detroit Will Breathe members erupted into applause when news of the order was announced, the local newspaper reported.

The group has been protesting for 99 days, since late May, when demonstrations against racism and police brutality erupted across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis policy custody.

Amanda Ghannam, an attorney representing Detroit Will Breathe, said the group is relieved by the order. However, they will seek a permanent injunction when the temporary restraining order expires in 14 days.

"Our clients simply seek to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, as countless others have done before them,” Ghannam told the outlet. “Whether you agree or disagree with the movement's message, their conduct is protected by the Constitution. The decision today affirms that we are on the right side of both the law and history."