Who are Police in Detroit Targeting in the Gun Grab, and How?

Who are Police in Detroit Targeting in the Gun Grab, and How?

Making a virtual appearance in Wayne County’s 36th District Court bright and early on Friday, the man on the screen in a dapper grey suit and striped tie, salt and pepper hair and a gentle demeanor, hardly cast the figure of a gun-toting outlaw. Sitting upright and attentive from his homey living room, Otis Goree took his turn in front of Judge Kenneth King for a preliminary hearing stemming from his February arrest for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.

Otis’ case was one many like it being heard that morning in courtroom 438. Though access to the public was limited (several were abandoned in the Zoom waiting room after attempting to log on using the public link), our from Majyck Radio was able to watch over an hour of the proceedings, during which dozens of individuals came before the court for concealed carry charges. 

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, gun sales across the country have been on the rise, and gun violence has risen alarmingly in many major metropolitan areas.  In response, Detroit police are cracking down – focusing their efforts on identifying, stopping and questioning individuals they believe to be carrying weapons and making arrests when those individuals are unable to furnish a concealed carry permit –  which, unlike the guns themselves, have become difficult to obtain. Getting a license requires a gun owner to successfully complete an approved training course – in person. While the pandemic rages on, many providers of the training have limited or entirely suspended their offerings due to public health concerns and social distancing requirements.  Amidst an uptick in violence within their neighborhoods, citizens like Otis feel at risk, but unable to legally protect themselves.

Otis Goree, Grandfather of 2Otis, 59, is a lifelong resident of Detroit. A hardworking family man and grandfather of 2, he enjoys working with his hands.  Since heart attacks in 2018 forced him into early retirement from his job in building maintenance, Otis spends most of his time gardening, woodworking, and relaxing at home.

Prior to 2020, Otis had never owned or fired a gun in his life, and didn’t feel like his lifestyle necessitated a firearm. That changed with the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020, and the massive social unrest, racially motivated and politically sanctioned violence, and an increasing sense of fear and desperation among many of his neighbors that led to increased violent crime in his community. Otis no longer felt safe, and for the first time looked to equipping himself with a firearm for personal protection. 

Otis is not alone. It is estimated that first time gun owners account for over 40% of gun sales in the country since early 2020 – more than double the average in previous years.

Otis purchased his small pistol from an authorized dealer and made sure to have it registered immediately. He didn’t know when he made his purchase that he would not be able to take a class locally to obtain his Concealed Carry Permit – information the seller didn’t share with him until after Otis had purchased and registered the weapon.  So, while the gun would afford him some peace of mind at home, it would have to stay there. And it did, until one snowy day in February. 

Normally, Otis relies on friends and family to drive him when he has errands to run. On February 17th, however, there was no one available to take him. Instead, he would have to walk to the stop on 7 Mile and take the bus. “I needed my vegetables”, Otis says, so he set out with his reusable grocery bags, his walking cane and, for the first time, his pistol. “Things had gotten pretty bad,” he explained, referring to violence in his neighborhood off 7 mile in Detroit.  Indeed, homicides in Detroit rose 19% in 2020, and non-fatal shootings were up 53%. So when he left on what would have otherwise been a routine trip to the market, he tucked the gun securely into the waistband of his pants, underneath his heavy winter coat. Otis explains that he didn’t make the decision lightly, but that he felt the need to bring a weapon with him because he feared for his safety in the neighborhood and at the bus stops. 

The shopping itself was uneventful, but while he waited, loaded down with bags of groceries, at the stop for the bus that would take him back home, suddenly two officers pulled up in a black stealth police SUV, got out, approached him (and only him) directly and immediately asked him if he had a weapon. Otis replied honestly that he did, and when asked if he had a CCW permit, told the officers he did not. Otis was relieved when after a few minutes, the officers then told him to go ahead and get on his bus and go home.  Unfortunately by the time he gathered his bags from the sidewalk, the bus had already moved on. Not wanting to stick around, he decided to walk to the next stop and catch his ride from there. He made it less than a block down the road before another stealth police vehicle pulled aside him and two more officers questioned him – exactly as they had at the bus stop moments before. Otis replied as he had at the bus stop, and once again the officers told him to be on his way and pulled off.  

Increasingly nervous and just wanting to get home, Otis walked on for another half a block or so before a third police vehicle pulled in front of him at the next intersection and blocked his path. He was bewildered. The exchange started out much the same – Otis shared when asked that he had a weapon, told them where it was, and explained he did not have a permit. This time, he was arrested. 

Sitting in the back of the police car that day, Otis recalls that his arresting officers claimed to not know about his having been stopped previously, which surprised him. Surely it was more than coincidence that led to his being stopped by three separate police vehicles on such a short journey. And how did they all seem to know he had a gun? Were the police using some kind of detector tools on patrol? He asked his arresting officers, who laughed. “We’re just really good at our jobs” one said. The coy denial didn’t convince Otis.  What would have otherwise prompted them to approach a greying older gentleman with a cane and bags of groceries at a bus stop? If they didn’t already know he had a gun, why was that the first question they asked at each stop?  

Others agree with Otis’ suspicions – and the idea isn’t far fetched. For years, the department of defense and policing agencies in the united states have been developing and piloting technologies that can detect weapons from as many as 80 feet away, raising fourth amendment concerns about whether or not scanning a person’s body of personal effects absent a warrant constitutes an illegal search. Though public information on the use of these technologies in Detroit is difficult to find, we know they have been implemented elsewhere in recent years, including in New York, where after public outcry the city voted to require the police department to publicly disclose their use of surveillance technology – something they had been actively trying to keep quiet. Meanwhile, the Detroit Police Department has increased its surveillance on citizens in recent years, with the installation of cameras on city streets and audio gunshot detector software that uses cell phone audio to pick up gunfire and triangulate its location. And given the department’s partnership with federal agencies over the summer with Operation Legend – and the millions of dollars that came attached – it’s easy to imagine they may have gained access to even more tools like these. 

Farooq Azizuddin says that even if Detroit Police haven’t acquired new technology, for over fifteen years they have employed a scanning device that can be aimed at individuals from a distance to pick up “unusual amounts’ ‘ of metals on a person. Azizuddin, a security expert and former Black Panther, says these devices were developed during the Iraq war to keep troops safe from armed insurgents overseas and eventually, as commonly happens with military tools, they became available to law enforcement agencies stateside. 

When Otis was booked at the county jail after his arrest in February, he shared a cell with several others, at least 11, who were also awaiting arraignment on weapons possession charges. All had similar stories about their arrests. Over the course of his 3 day stay, the trend continued; those that bonded out were quickly replaced with others newly arrested under similar circumstances. The numbers aren’t surprising; DPD’s Chief James Craig calls his department’s efforts to crack down on guns “aggressive”. 

There is no question that gun violence is a huge problem in our communities, one that has grown considerably in the last year. But rather than address the root causes of crime and violence in a community historically marginalized and poverty stricken, currently experiencing the worst effects of the current pandemic, the city is focusing instead on increasing surveillance of its citizens and casting a wide net to grab as many guns as they can. But who is getting caught up in it? Chief Craig has been a longtime advocate for an armed citizenry, stating his belief that “good guys”, law abiding citizens with guns create safer communities, reduce crime, and even deter terrorism. Thanks to the pandemic’s limiting effect on the registration and licensing process for firearms in addition to an increased need for personal safety, people like Otis, who has no prior criminal history, are finding themselves targeted – seemingly by virtue of being Black. The stealth units appearing in Black neighborhoods conducting these sweeps seem to be absent from more affluent white areas of the city. Maybe that’s where Craig believes the “good guys” are?

Now Otis, who has been looking forward to finally being able to spend time with his children and grandchildren once the threat of Covid-19 subsides, is instead staring directly at a felony charge of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit – punishable by up to five years in prison.  The process is slow, but Otis has a lot of questions about his case, and he intends to use this time to get answers. His preliminary hearing today was adjourned until June 30th on account of his attorney having only this morning received the discovery packet – containing documents and evidence necessary to develop his defense.  In addition to working with a public defender, Otis has also partnered with Emergent Justice’s Participatory Defense Hub – a cooperative of individuals who come together regularly to review cases, strategize, and dismantle roadblocks to achieving just outcomes. The team will be working diligently in the coming months to support him and his attorney on this case in the coming months. 

In the meantime, while the specter of “justice” hangs over his head, Otis plans to go about his business more or less as usual.  He’ll ready his gardens for spring, do a little woodworking, practice the harmonica, and maybe even get around to restoring the old Corvette in his garage. And while his own fate is uncertain, he wants more than anything for the community to be aware of the tools and tactics of the police that patrol his city. “Everybody is safer when everybody else knows what’s going on”. 

Majyck Radio reached out to the Detroit Police Department to inquire about their use of surveillance technology, and hopes to learn more about the circumstances that led to Mr. Goree’s arrest. We will continue to follow his case. More information about Participatory Defense can be found online at Emergent Justice’s Website: emergentjustice.org.

MICHIGAN COVID-19 STATEWIDE IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF VUlNERABLE INCARCERATED PEOPLE

MICHIGAN COVID-19 STATEWIDE IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF VUlNERABLE INCARCERATED PEOPLE

Kalamazoo, MI-

Message from Statewide organization Michigan Liberation

Michigan Liberation Online Petition

Michigan Liberation friends & families have crafted a non-exhaustive list of demand elected officials in the position of power during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Michigan Liberation organizers are demanding crisis protection for vulnerable populations and prevent the spread of the virus due to overcrowded conditions in Michigan state prisons and jails.

The grassroots organization recommends the following types of changes to be implemented by our Governor, legislature, sheriffs, prosecutors, and judges. Also demanding the immediate release from prison and jails for vulnerable populations, limiting arrests and warrants for low-level offenses so people don’t live in a higher state of fear, suspend criminal charges that can serve a more severe life-altering burden, and relief and care for our incarcerated loved ones. To find out more about the petition and details of the demands use the link below.


Will you Michigan Liberation by taking action on this campaign?
https://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/michigan-covid-19-statewide-immediate-release-of-vulnerable-incarcerated-people?share=8aba2b91-6d35-46c2-aee8-7bfc79b17035&source=email-share-button&utm_source=email

https://www.facebook.com/MichiganLiberation/videos/519876012236759/

For more information, visit www.miliberation.org

R& B Singer Puff Johnson Loses Battle With Cervical Cancer

Puff JohnsonPuff Johnson, whose real name was Ewanya Johnson, reportedly died on June 24, 2013 after long battle with cervical cancer.

Johnson emerged on the music scene with the singles Forever More and Over & Over, which appeared on the soundtrack of the film The First Wives Club.

Miracle,  her only album was released in 1996.  In 1997 Johnson toured Europe as an opening act for Michael Jackson.

Johnson lived in South Africa in 2009 before her stay was cut short when she was arrested and deported to the US in 2010 for not having proper documentation.

Johnson was 40-years-old.

 

Long Over Due R&B Museum Headed To Detroit, MI

 R&B Music Hall of Fame Museum founder, entrepreneur and comedy basketball Clown Prince of the Harlem Clowns, LaMont “ShowBoat” Robinson from Cleveland, Ohio and his staff of advisors had narrowed the selection down to two cities (Cleveland and Detroit) to develop theOfficial R&B Music Hall of Fame Museum.

The R&B Music Hall of Fame Museum recently announced its partnership with  Detroit based entertainment company, the Detroit Touring Company, founded by mogul entertainment promoter Quentin Perry.

 The R&B Music Hall of Fame Museum will feature to the world the essence of rhythm & blues music and its components. The R&B Music Hall Inaugural Induction Ceremony will be held on Saturday, September 21, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan at the legendary Detroit Opera House. Tickets will go on sale June 1, 2013 at the Detroit Opera House box office, (313) 237-7464.

2013 induction includes Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, James Brown, The Temptations, The O’Jays, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, The Marvelettes, Enchantment, The Ohio Players, Little Jimmy Scott, Gerald Levert, Aretha Franklin, and The Dramatics, to name a few of the inductees.

Miracles Founding Member Bobby Rogers Passes Away

Bobby Rogers, a founding member of the soul group the Miracles, passed away on Sunday after a long illness. He was 73. Rogers was born in Detroit in February 19,1940, in the same hospital and on the same day as William “Smokey” Robinson.  They would meet years later forming the Miracles with Rogers cousin Claudette Rogers, Pete Moore and Ronnie White.

Rogers was inducted along with the other members of the Miracles in 2012 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Rogers was the grandfather of R&B singer Brandi Williams from R&B girl group Blaque.

 

Former Temptations Singer, Richard Street Passes Away

Richard Allen Street  R&B singer, member of the legendary Motown vocal group The Temptations for more than 20 years passed away February 27, from pulmonary embolism.  Street was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan,

His wife, Cindy Street said Street died early Wednesday at St. Rose Dominican Hospital in Las Vegas.

Street was married to The Velvelettes‘ lead singer Carolyn “Cal” Gill from 1969 to 1983. They have one son, Richard, Jr. Street.

Otis “Damon” Harris of The Temptations passed away on February 26, 2013.

 

Otis “Damon” Harris Former Member of The Temptations Passes Away

Otis “Damon” Harris, 62, a former member of the Temptations, passed away  of prostate cancer.  Family spokesman, Chuck Woodson,  confirmed that Mr. Harris died at a Baltimore hospice last week.

Mr. Harris performed with the Motown act from 1971 to 1975 and sang on hits including “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are).”

Harris established a cancer foundation that was still in its early stages when he became ill.  Mr.Harris also became a strong advocate for prostate cancer screening.

Bizarre’s Single “IDWMD” & The “Weirdo Movement” Tour Kick Off In Kalamazoo

Bizarre’s recently released video for his single “IDWMD.”YouTube.
Bizarre a Detroit hip-hop artist gained popularity as a member of D-12. He began his rap career in Detroit’s underground rap scene before achieving success with platinum albums sales and worldwide tours. Known for his shirtless, shower cap performances, and memorable lyrics he has established is “brand” in the hip-hop world.
To date, Bizarre has released several mix tapes and albums on his own as well as his work with D12.
In February of this year, Bizarre officially split from D12 to focus on his own group “The Weirdo Movement”.
Bizarre is will be begin his “Weirdo Movement” Tour on December 7th. The tour will hit the following cities:

12/7 – Kalamazoo, Michigan
12/8 – Appleton, Wisconsin
12/10 – Superior, Wisconsin
12/11 – Omaha, Nebraska
12/12 – Sheboygan, Wisconsin
12/13 – Chicago, Illinois
12/14 – Springfield, Missouri
12/15 – Lafayette, Indiana
12/18 – Buffalo, NY
12/19 – Detroit, Michigan
1/4 – Tulsa, Oklahoma
1/5 – Dallas, Texas
1/6 – Austin, Texas
1/8 – Albuquerque, New Mexico
1/11 – Tucson, Arizona
1/12 – Phoenix, Arizona
1/13 – Las Vegas, Nevada
1/14 – Salt Lake City, Utah
1/15 – Boise, Idaho
1/16 – Vancouver, Washington
1/17 – Salem, Oregon
1/18 – OrangeVale, California
1/19 – Tulare, California
1/20 – Castaic, California
1/23 – Denver, Colorado
1/25 – Casper, Wyoming
Bizarre will be releasing his next project “My Reality” soon. Keep up with all updates by following him on Twitter.

Detroit Jazz Festival More Than Just Music This Year

The Detroit Jazz Festival will be start Friday and two organizations MusiCares and Smile Programs will hold a free dental clinic 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Renaissance Center for musicians. The clinic will give free screens, teeth cleaning and x-rays to “uninsured music professionals in need. For complete schedule of events.

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