Some Detroit activists and community members are outraged by what they see as a low-key response to an attack on a homeless man last week, one that seems to have been at least partly racially motivated.
According to the victim and witnesses, a white man suddenly beat and stabbed the homeless man, who is black, in Detroit’s busy Eastern Market district. They also said the attacker shouted racial slurs as he did it.
The mid-day attack happened outside the Team Wellness Center, which serves many homeless and mentally ill people in the area.
Activists with the Michigan People’s Defense Network said they’re “very concerned” about the incident, and what they say has been a slow, inadequate response from police and city officials.
Member Abayomi Azikiwe said that group just formed in November in response to Donald Trump’s election, and “the rising tide of racial intolerance in Detroit and throughout the country.”
Pointing to a series of racially motivated attacks in other cities, Azikiwe said the group also wants to highlight how Detroit’s much-touted “revival” obscures some ugly facts about the city’s past and present.
“We want to let the city of Detroit know that this new atmosphere that’s being created throughout the city of Detroit has to be accepting of the majority African-American population who have been here for decades,” Azikiwe said.
“We don’t see any resources being directed toward our communities, or any real concern about the plight of people in the neighborhoods, people who don’t have homes, don’t have adequate income.”
Fellow People’s Defense Network member DeMeeko Williams echoed that. “We’re sitting at Eastern Market where it’s supposed to be about the new unity of Detroit, but basically it’s about gentrification,” Williams said. “It’s gentrification as segregation.”
Williams said those served by places like the Team Wellness Center “have a right to be here just as much as everyone else.” He added that “violence against homeless people, and people with mental disabilities … shall not be tolerated. Nor [will] a racial attack.”
Williams and others want Detroit police, city officials and the public to step up the search for the attacker.
If they don’t see evidence that’s happening in the coming days, they plan a march and rally in Eastern Market later this month.
"If there’s no resolution on June 17, then we’ll be out here in large numbers to demonstrate on a Saturday morning, when this area is quite crowded with consumers,” Azikiwe said.
Detroit Police have said the incident is under investigation. A police spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment on their progress Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the victim of the attack, who wants to be identified only as Rudy, had returned to the Team Wellness Center Tuesday. He confirmed basic details of the attack, saying that “two white guys, one aggressive white guy” were “talking the n-word and all that other stuff, and before I realized I was standing over here trying to get away from it.”
Rudy said staff from the health center cared for him until police arrived, and he was taken to the hospital. He said he’s still in pain and recovering from the attack, showing a series of staples that still cover a stab wound across his abdomen.
As for exactly what happened, Rudy pointed to a nearby security camera and said: “That video is gonna show everything. Until video comes out, I’m gonna be quiet.”