Lansing - A small but energetic crowd gathered on the steps of the state Capitol and east lawn Saturday afternoon to protest racial profiling and police brutality.
Demonstrators listened to representatives from the black, Latino, lesbian-bi-gay-transgendered and religious communities for three hours as they demanded change and cited specific cases of brutality.
The demands included the passage of legislation to outlaw racial profiling in Michigan, which would allow officers who commit these acts to be prosecuted, the creation of a council for community control of the police and a call for the immediate end to police brutality and racial profiling.
Demonstrators of various races and social classes came from across the state to participate in the rally. One woman, Libby Hunter, came from Kalamazoo to participate in the event after hearing about the naked jailing of 24 black men in her community.
This is brutality against people by the cops and it upsets me to my core, she said. I want to be able to do something in this movement and I dont know what that will be yet, but I believe the idea that if one person or group of persons arent protected then no one is safe.
Womens studies sophomore Jennifer Dunn went to the event to learn more about police brutality and how she might be able to help.
It just reminds me that some very bad things go on that we need to make ourselves aware of and do something about, she said. This is one of them.
JoNina Abron, acting coordinator for the coalition, said the rally was not created for activists but for regular citizens and groups throughout the state that want to see an end to racism, police lawlessness and the violation of the rights of minorities.
Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, fellow coordinator for the event, reminded the crowd that police brutality is not an issue for any one race, but a problem that needs to be addressed by all humanity.
Maybe were being too ambitious, but if you remain silent then evil will remain supreme, he said. Sometimes Id rather have 50 to 100 people that really want to do the work than 1,000 people that are just here to be entertained.
When Ervin left the stage, Ernesto Todd Laralis, a member of the Lansing branch of the Brown Berets, a Latino activist group, took the microphone and began to pump up the crowd. He said the event was the first time that Latino and black communities came together for a racial profiling cause, but their joint legacy of rebellion connects them.
This isnt about human rights but human responsibility to oppose racism and end the murder of their brothers and sisters in this community, he said. We must all find that spark and let it come alive inside each of us.
Ken Corr, a Pontiac resident and a late addition to the list of speakers, came to the event at the suggestion of his state representative.
Corr shared several poems hes written to draw attention to the cause, including Driving While Black, describing how just driving down the street as a black man is reason to be pulled over in many areas of the state.
He was disappointed in the lack of a crowd at the event.
Youve always heard that its not the amount of time but the quality of time you put into a cause but you always want more people to show up, he said.