Former Detroit police chief James Craig was scheduled to declare his candidacy for governor of Michigan in 2022 at a kickoff event on Belle Isle on Tuesday morning. Protesters seized the waterfront spot designated as the background approximately 10 minutes after the announcement was supposed to begin at 10 a.m.
The Detroit News reports that an estimated three dozen protesters marched to Sunset Point on Belle Isle, screaming, “Hey hey, ho ho, James Craig has got to go!” They also reportedly chanted, “James Craig is full of hate! We won’t let him win our state,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “no justice, no peace. James Craig is still the police.” A group of supporters also chanted “Craig!” but failed to gain steam as Craig walked towards a podium to begin his speech before being completely drowned out by protesters. According to WXYZ, Craig stated, “I just have one thing to say, I’m running for governor of the State of Michigan” before leaving the scene.
A local man named Carl Meyers said he started his job late, hoping to hear Craig’s views on the future and fiscal policies. Instead, there were demonstrators and a single-line statement. He stated, “It’s not right, in America, that somebody would be denied the right to speak. [The protesters] were able to be heard, and they should have let [Craig] be heard too”. Meyers was also yelled at by a few of the demonstrators.
Craig was the chief of police in Detroit from May 2013 until his retirement on June 1. He denounced the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis and said that most anti-police brutality protests in Detroit were nonviolent. However, at a May 2020 demonstration, 84 protesters were arrested after throwing bricks, rocks, and fireworks at police. Craig mainly got positive feedback from long-time Detroit civil rights leaders. However, the extremist organizations that rose to prominence last year in response to Floyd’s death, such as Detroit Will Breathe, have frequently called for Craig’s removal, saying that Detroit cops used excessive force during protests.
Craig is the highest-profile Republican to declare a run against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer thus far. In a Facebook post, he stated, “Today, we officially kick off our campaign for Governor. I’m excited to share our message of freedom, liberty, and leading from the front.” As a candidate, Craig is relying on his law enforcement experience. He recently convened the Law Enforcement Action Team, a group of Michigan sheriffs and prosecutors, both Democrats and Republicans, who are likely to suggest new state legislation to help the police this fall.
Craig is one of ten Michigan Republicans who have created or are in the process of creating fundraising groups to run for governor next year. Other notable candidates include Garrett Soldano, a Mattawan doctor, and Tudor Dixon, a conservative pundit and anti-lockdown advocate from Norton Shores.
The disruptive protest comes shortly after Larry Elder, another black gubernatorial candidate, was assaulted as he toured a Los Angeles homeless encampment while campaigning for the state’s recall election.