Peaceful but determined, protesters demand answers

100 or so gather outside Lansing police headquarters

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THURSDAY, June 4 — They were almost all young, under 30. They were black, brown and white.

They marched from the Capitol out Michigan Avenue. And at each intersection, they formed a circle. Then they lay on their stomachs.

“I can’t breathe,” they said.

“Loosen my handcuffs, please.”

“Your badge is not a license to murder.”

They were continuing a peaceful protest that started Monday and has gone on downtown every night. No car burning, no window breaking, no vandalism.

“I like this,” said Joe Carr, 22, who drove from Flint with a friend. “I don’t like the violence. That’s stupid. Every protest going on right now should be more like this,” he said. “We’re not destroying shit.”

It was indeed peaceful. Enough so that it was hard to find a cop in sight.

Unlike Sunday night, when cops came downtown from 15 jurisdictions to keep the peace. Failing miserably.

On the day of George Floyd’s memorial in Minneapolis, where a police officer killed him two Mondays ago, tonight’s protesters were angry. But peaceful.

Alex Dodge, 16, from East Lansing, was there with his buddies.

“What’s enough is enough. We can accomplish this as one, not as a race,” the black youth said.

“I love the integrity on display here,” he said. “I don’t care if there are only six people here. I’ll keep a smile on my face. Because those are the people we need. We don’t need the ones who stay home.”

One who has not stayed home is Paul Birdsong, of Lansing. At 34, he may have been the oldest one there.

He was there Sunday. He was there Monday. He was there Tuesday and Wednesday. And he was there tonight.

On Monday, he stretched out, face down, at the Capitol. “A few other people joined me. It started raining, so I sent everyone home. They were asking when we could do it again, so I said to come back tomorrow."

“I’ll be here every day 'til we get what we want.”

Which is?

“The charges to stick!

“What do we want? The judge to convict!

“Who?

“All four!”

After the sunset, the peaceful protesters sat cross-legged in front of police headquarters, next to City Hall.

“Come outside,” they chanted, their hands up as if they were under arrest.

Birdsong put out the word for everyone to call the police and ask them to come out.

The kid from East Lansing, Alex Dodge, was the first one to get through. He said someone on the other end said the police would come out.

“When they come out,” Birdsong told the crowd, “we’re not going to bombard them. We’re not going to say something stupid.

But, “If they say something that’s bullshit, I expect all of you to yell, ‘Bullshit!’”

Would anyone come out? Ten minutes passed.

Waiting, they raised their fists in a silent tribute to Floyd to mark the day of his memorial service.

And then they waited some more.

“Call again,” Birdsong instructed everyone, “because they’re taking too long.”

Sgt. Julie Thomas came out.

“We’re holding you and the rest of the Police Department accountable,” Birdsong told her.

“I was not down here Sunday,” she replied. “While I heard what happened, I am not familiar with the situation.”

“Bullshit!” the crowd yelled.

“We saw her hit somebody with the car,” Birdsong said, referring to the driver of the car that got torched after she drove it into the march. “We were trying to outrun her. Whether or not you were around on that day, we’re holding you accountable.”

“I don’t have the authority to arrest her at this point,” she said. “This happened Sunday. Now it’s Thursday. There’s a certain amount of time in which you can determine probable cause of arrest.”

“Bullshit!”

Thomas told them they can come back tomorrow and talk to someone when the station is open.

Birdsong: “You’re not out of hot water. Your voice is irrelevant unless you start giving us answers.”

Then he told the crowd, “Tomorrow, I’m going to be back here. If you come, all power to the people.”

“The crowd wants to know why you used tear gas,” he said.

“I can’t answer that,” the sergeant replied.

Birdsong repeated he will be back tomorrow.

Applause and cheers.

The end.

For tonight.

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