Hundreds of Ann Arbor residents marched Wednesday night from the Blake Transit Center to City Hall to protest last week’s violent arrest of Ciaeem Slaton, a Black 16-year-old who was waiting at the BTC for a bus home.
According to University of Michigan alum Anna Lemler, an organizer with local activist group Collective Against White Supremacy, the arresting officer was responding to reports of a fight that had occurred there earlier.
“It sounds like there was some high energy because of that fight and so he got there for a different reason, to take the bus home, and the cop said, ‘You need to leave,’” she said in an earlier interview. “So he started to walk away from the crowd and the cop came up and approached him again, and that’s when he asked for his ID.”
At that point, Slaton told the officer he didn’t have any ID because his school had not yet issued them. It is unclear if anything transpired in between, but the officer then proceeded to arrest Slaton, putting him face-down on the ground and pinning him with his knee. In the video, Slaton’s friends can be heard telling him not to move, and others saying, “F— 12.”
Ahead of the march, DaQuann Harrison, a friend of Slaton’s who organized the rally, noted the historical context of police brutality against young Black men, and the history of police brutality in Ann Arbor.
“(Ciaeem) is one of many youth of color who are targeted by police in here. His situation is also one of many that has historically appeared here in Ann Arbor,” Harrison said. “And we cannot forget the many young Black people who have been brutalized around the country by police: Tamir Rice, Jordan Edwards, Oscar Grant, Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, just to name a few. And here in Ann Arbor, Aura Rosser, a Black woman shot and killed while in crisis by an AAPD officer.”
Stopping outside City Hall, Harrison opened the megaphone up to members of the crowd, emphasizing the importance of young people of color making their voices heard.
“We encourage youth of color to come up and share how they have been impacted,” he said. “We encourage people to share so city officials in attendance can listen and learn, and so that the Ann Arbor police community can understand that this is wrong and that we demand something different.”
Saima Harrison, a student at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, said she was inspired to fight for justice because of her father’s negative childhood experiences with the AAPD — he received death threats and reported them to AAPD, which did not respond.
“All through his life he has been protesting their treatment and it has been passed down from generation to generation, and so I have made it basically my life duty to get justice for people of color, for Black men, for Black women, for all of us,” she said. “Because it was over 50 years ago when my dad got his first death threat, and when the police did nothing, and it’s still happening today. And that’s not OK.”
Ann Arbor resident Shirley Beckley noted the coincidence of the location of the arrest, as the Blake Transit Center is named for Richard Blake, a prominent Black man in the Ann Arbor community whose son is also a retired AAPD officer. She also stressed the importance of engaging with local officials to affect change.
“This is a terrific insult to us in this community,” Beckley said. “Now, our city manager says when we have a problem we can come to him. Let’s come to him. I’ve seen him walking that way — I don’t know where he went. But we need to go and protest some more and let him know we’re not going to take this in our community.”
AAPD is still undergoing a $200,000 external review by a Chicago-based security firm. Many residents have expressed frustration with a lack of transparency and conclusive results in the seven-month process.
Kashatria Moore, Slaton’s mother, also spoke at the rally, saying she wanted parents to be more aware of their rights to protect their children.
“I would like to raise awareness because some parents are unclear about what the judicial responsibilities are and what your rights are as a parent,” she said. “Basically, my main concern is the force of action that was used against my son, the fact that my son is only 16 years old, this was done, this officer spoke to my son, brought him a trespass and released him.”
A press release from Collective Against White Supremacy said Slaton was charged with trespassing following the arrest, and as a consequence he would not be able to use Ann Arbor Transit Authority buses or be at the Blake Transit Center for a year. This statement was later taken down.
According to AAPD Sgt. Aimee Metzger, however, Slaton wasn’t cited or charged with anything, and is not banned from riding on AATA buses.
“There’s no such thing as a trespassing ticket,” she said.
AATA TheRide employee Mary Stasiak also wrote in an email statement “we are clarifying that no one was banned from using TheRide bus service,” though Moore, Lemler, and staff at the Neutral Zone—a community center for students in the city Slaton attends—allege Slaton and other teens cannot access AATA buses due to the ticket.
Metzger said she thought the confusion had arisen from “misinformation.”
“I think people are making some assumptions,” she said.
In an earlier interview, Neutral Zone executive director Lori Reddy said safe access to transportation is of utmost importance to Ann Arbor teens of color.
“35% of teens at the Neutral Zone access it through Blake Transit Center,” These are challenging times, and all of our Black teens at the BTC are not feeling safe. These teens are a big asset and resource to our community. It’s on us to address what’s going on at the Blake Transit Center.”
For Moore, though, ticket or not, the emotional trauma to her son was more than enough.
“So, at the end of the day—like I said—I want a public apology. You humiliated by son because my son was in the crowd,” she said. “Yeah, some of the people might have been distasteful, but how many of us haven’t hung around distasteful people that our parents or other peers didn’t want us to be around? So, I want to see some type of results from this. I want somebody to answer for this.”