Trishe Duckworth, one of the organizers of Friday’s protest, said that the immediate community response came together naturally in the day following Grady El’s arrest. However, as the week moved on, Duckworth and other community members organized, sharing social media flyers and garnering hundreds of attendees over days of protests.
Grady El was released Friday, May 29, with the help of William Amadeo and Trovious Starr, her legal team. Within hours, she was at the protest, and the mood shifted to one of celebration.
“When we come together, when we unify, we can get anything done,” Duckworth said. “We see that because she was released, and she’s on her way home today. People say protesting doesn’t work, and that’s not true. You have to do it with the right intention and the right heart.”
However, Grady El’s legal troubles are far from over. According to Amadeo, she remains under GPS monitoring and a bond requiring her to return to court. The team’s next steps are to dismiss the case again in a probable cause conference on June 8. If it isn’t dismissed, they will hold a preliminary examination.
“It’s been a nightmare,” Amadeo said. “We haven’t really slept much. We’ve worked around the clock, we’ve been getting phone calls at ten o’clock at night from the Wayne County Prosecutor. We’ve been in constant touch with the family. We did have some success today, but we have a long way to go. I did ask the charges be dismissed, and they should be dismissed. But if they’re not, we’re ready to go to [preliminary examination]. I’m ready to go to trial.”
“This is disgusting,” Bullock said. “It’s getting too much for me. It seems like it's too much to me. It seems like it's being accepted now. We see how many people are getting killed on camera. Think of how many we don’t see. This is too much. We’ve been stagnant for too long. We have to have purposeful action, we have to come together, we have to unite, we have to put our petty differences aside.”.
Many of the protestors recognized the need to stand in solidarity with the national movement against police brutality. Following recent outrage over police brutality locally as well as national unrest following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade, the support from the community was especially powerful.
“With the state of the world right now, it’s important that we get together,” said Damon Stallworth, a 40-year-old Washtenaw County resident and member of the Ann Arbor Boogie Down biker group. “As black people, we’re going to be together. We stick together. We can’t do it by ourselves. Where are all the caucasians that are shaking hands with us on a daily basis? We need them to help us too. If not, it’s just us making noise.”
Although she remained emotionally and physically shaken from her arrest, Grady El was thankful that it provided her with the opportunity to speak out and effect change.
The protest remained peaceful, but early on there was a moment of increased tension. Protesters spotted two Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department employees on the roof of the building wearing tactical gear. There was intense and immediate anger from the protesters, many of whom believed that the department had placed snipers on the roof. Duckworth stormed through the crowd, yelling on a phone call with a representative from Clayton’s office. Ethan Ketner, another organizer of the event, said the officers’ presence on the roof made him feel unsafe.
As the protest continued, community leaders and politicians alike took to the microphone. Eli Savit, a current candidate running for Washtenaw County Prosecutor, showed his solidarity with the protestors. His campaign’s platform is based on eliminating racial inequities in the justice system by hiring third-party researchers to identify and eliminate where the inequities occur. He is also seeking to end cash bail.
“Across the country, people are waking up to the fact that we have a real systemic problem with police violence, a real systemic problem with mass incarceration,” Savit said. “We have a big problem with systemic racism. I think what you’re seeing here is a reflection at its best of a movement that is happening across the country.”
Protesters in front carried a wide banner reading, “Cops Lie People Die,” “No KKKops” and “White Silence is Deadly.” The chanting and cries of the demonstration were coupled with the beating of drums. At one point, a white man approached protesters, yelling at them to stop blocking the street and telling them that they should be protesting black-on-black crime. After a brief confrontation, the protesters disengaged and continued to march back towards the Sheriff’s office.