Black Lives Matter staged coordinated protests in several Michigan cities Monday. In Lansing, leaders demanded four specific actions of their local officials.
Hundreds of people withstood sweltering heat to support the BLM protest at the State Capitol.
BLM Lansing wants the city’s police department to be defunded. Co-founder Angela Waters Austin says money must be re-invested into the Black community.
“Take that money out of the police and invest it in the Black lives that you have starved, oppressed and brutalized for 401 years, plus,” Austin says. “We will build a system of public safety that honors us, that respects us, that values our lives…and that will put to shame the system of slave patrols that you call police.”
BLM also called for the resignation of President Donald Trump and Lansing Mayor Andy Schor.
Attendee Shelton Tyson is a Black man who grew up in Detroit and lives in Lansing. He wore a mask that read “We Will Breathe,” written in the Pan-African colors of red, yellow and green.
Tyson was encouraged to see many White people at the rally.
“If people are really thinking about love and not hate, it gives us all an opportunity to think that we can do some things to make a change,” said Tyson.
Robert Maclellan, who is White, said racial justice was important enough to risk being in a large crowd during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We all know there’s a danger here; any of us could contract the virus. This is more important than anything right now. This is what matters. Black lives matter.”
Activist Paul Birdsong isn’t a member of Black Lives Matter. However, he’s emerging as one of the leading figures in the fight for racial justice in Lansing. Birdsong came to the rally armed with a semi-automatic weapon.
He said he was there to protect attendees, adding that he himself had received an online death threat.
Birdsong said he believes that’s because he speaks truth to power.
“I think the fact that I’m an uncontrollable, unstoppable, unafraid Black man scares their whole regime.”
Lansing Mayor Andy Schor’s office issued a statement saying he is not resigning, and is “continuing to do the work that Lansing residents elected him to do.”