TUESDAY, June 9 — In his most detailed interview to date, Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green described today the chaos he said law enforcement faced in downtown Lansing two Sundays ago, when a peaceful protest march ended with a car being burned, windows broken and more.
Green explained why he recommended the use of tear gas to Lansing Mayor Andy Schor; why a woman who appeared to be driving recklessly through the march has not yet been charged; and why a group of white men were still walking downtown streets well after the mayor’s curfew was announced.
This interview was edited and condensed.
CP: Why did you use tear gas so long after the car was set on fire?
Green: Well first off obviously there is a little bit of a time gap. Our officers were in what we title soft uniforms. Meaning that they were not in helmets, did not have shields, and all of those stages you would view as militarization of the police, so our officers, when that fire started, our officers had to back off, had to change. We were receiving actionable intelligence that additional fires would start, we were concerned that there was intentional acts were being entailed to start dumpsters that that impinged on downtown buildings and we were dealing with a situation whereas we believed that there was a likely, very high likelihood that someone could start one of those buildings on fire and, you know, as I talked about at the press conference, I had the duty and responsibility not only to protesters but any time you have a group of people and they are engaging in that type of activity, throwing bottles, throwing liquids and other projectiles at officers, smashing windows, starting fires, overturning the car, smashing the windows out, trying to rip the doors off the car, that situation was no longer a peaceful protest. And so with that and the actual intelligence we had, and you know, after this stage, you know, was completed we had multiple dumpster fires and the Fire Department was in fear of trying to get down there to put it out. We are lucky that a citizen was able to get down there quickly and facilitate, you know, putting that fire out with a extinguisher.
It was a critical decision at a critical time, it was based on actual intelligence. I did the best I could to make that appropriate decision, to deal with rioters. We did the best we could to save that city. Remember, the downtown district is not just businesses; you have families with children, husbands and wives that live in apartments over those ground floor stores. We have a duty and responsibility to assure them of a level of safety that they don’t have to worry about people intentionally starting dumpster fires or car fires. It’s no longer peaceful if they are starting fires, and we certainly had that. We had multiple fights going on.
We had some true heroes as far as some of our citizens. Some of them were successful at keeping people out of the bank that was looted and entered.
My department is going to do a full internal review of it.
We did our best to mitigate damage to the city and also families and downtown business owners that live downtown as well.
GREEN: There were multiple fights between protesters and rioters. One man who was beat down pretty well was surrounded by protesters attempting to beat him more, and luckily he was able to escape and run off, only through the assistance of other people, so there was a lot of things going on. There was obviously graffiti, busted windows, projectiles thrown at the officers, multiple fights, people burning flags, people with open carry. We definitely keep our attention on those people. There was a fight in front of the Sparrow professional building and on several blocks of Washington. We did the best we could under those circumstances, but it was chaotic. Besides on Washingon, there were multiple issues developing on Grand and Michigan, also the Capitol and Allegan area — there were issues all over. Seeing what was damaged throughout the property really gives you a clear indication of how spread out this was. We had four dumpster fires that luckily did not spread, we had another vehicle that was attempted to be arson, we had another vehicle that was turned over, the Ingham County Sherriff’s Office had property damage of three cars, windows smashed.
CP: Why hasn’t the woman who appeared to be driving recklessly among marchers arrested?
Green: Michigan State Police on bikes contacted her first. They were riding through and see this young lady being surrounded, her car being pounded on and so forth, and they went to aid her. The crowd surrounded the troopers. So LPD assisted in evacuating all of them in that area. MSP took the young lady to the Capitol. We were dealing with evolving issues. We had no idea of all the video that would surface on this, we had no one call the police to say I was hit by a car or the female that was driving that car almost hit me. It was just not brought to our attention that night at all, we had no one in the hospital that was injured, there were no reported medical treatments by the Lansing Fire Department, we had no injuries — so we didn’t know. We didn’t connect the pieces until we started receiving phone calls the next day. We opened an investigation, we also sent out a bulletin for additional information from the public. We’ll look at all that and have a detective assigned to it. We’ll put the packet together and send it over to (Prosecutor) Carol Siemon.
CP: Are you going to recommend charges to the prosecutor or are you at a point yet that you would recommend charges?
GREEN: We want to be intentional on holding people accountable for their actions, and that includes the young lady driving, and we do take it very seriously. I have seen some of the video on social media but I haven’t been actively involved in the case. It definitely is concerning to me and I’m trying to understand why the young lady would drive in that manner. We are still getting some evidence, some video evidence coming in and we’ll make an assessment and we’ll push it over to the Prosecutor’s Office and see what charges evolve out of that.
CP: Is there evidence that she was shouting racial epithets? We’ve heard some people claim that.
GREEN: I have not heard that. But if that comes out in the investigation, that will definitely be in the report. Carol will have to make an assessment on how that relates to her charges, if any.
CP: How high a priority is completing this investigation?
GREEN:It’s definitely a priority. It’s one of the key issues that came out of this, that this young lady and her driving angered some people, and frustration, but at the same time, you know, she is possibly an accused and she is also a victim. Her car was set on fire, so there is a host of issues. Part of our job in policing is to make sure we uncover all the facts or as many facts as we can gather, to hold everyone accountable for their actions down there if they are involved criminality.
CP: At the end of the night, two ours or more after the curfew had been imposed I saw a group of young white men outside of Chase Bank. They were laughing. Why weren’t they arrested for violating the curfew? I ask because they were all white men?
GREEN:The way we did the curfew violation was this: We tried to communicate that information that the mayor had signed the curfew violation, we kind of developed a format of explaining that the mayor has issued a curfew and give them the opportunity to leave. If they refuse to leave the area, those are arrests we are going to have to make, but we have to give them an opportunity to comply. I can tell you this, as an African American police chief, any type of bias, if I see it and if I hear about it, I will address it.
But I don’t think that was the issue. Maybe they were instructed to leave, and maybe they kind of loitered, and officers were dealing with other issues and didn’t come circle back around. But we cleared that entire block off eventually. But we were chasing people around some of the alleyways, I meant it was a very smooth process, and I’m sure, you know, all around, there were people kind of popping out and loitering. We had people throwing rocks at officers from a building on top of the 100 block of S Washington and issues were just evolving so I couldn’t say for sure that was the case, but I don’t believe it, because the intent was to push everyone out of there because we knew that someone was intentionally starting fires and there was a high risk that the downtown area could burn down, and that was the last thing I want on my watch is to hear we didn’t do everything we could do, exhaust all means to clear an area and keep families that live downtown safe.