Protesters march in Ann Arbor after prosecutor declines to press charges against officer

Darius Simpson leads protesters in taking over an intersection in downtown Ann Arbor in reaction to the prosecutor's decision not to press charges in the shooting death of Aura Rosser, a Black woman, by a police officer on January 31, 2015.

By Anastassios Adamopoulos , Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 31, 2015

Protesters marched through downtown Ann Arbor on Saturday in response to the decision by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office not to press criminal charges against Ann Arbor Police Department Officer David Ried following the fatal shooting of 40-year-old Ann Arbor resident Aura Rosser.

The protest was led by an organization known as Ann Arbor to Ferguson. Participants arrived at City Hall around 4:30 p.m. the day after the decision was announced.

Friday evening, the prosecutor’s office announced that Ried employed “lawful self-defense” when he shot Rosser. The report said Rosser charged toward Ried and the officer accompanying him with a knife, and refused to put it down when ordered to do so by the police officers.

Protesters marched holding pictures of Rosser while others held signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “End Police Violence.” The protesters chanted “No Peace No Justice” as well “Hey hey ho ho, racist cops have got to go” and “Show me what democracy looks like? This is what democracy looks like.”

The protest moved from City Hall to East Washington Street, blocking traffic on Liberty Street and State Street, and ultimately ended on Main Street. The protesters held a moment of silence on the corner of Huron and Main streets before returning to City Hall where the protest concluded shortly after 6 p.m.

Throughout the protest, stopped traffic angered some drivers, who honked as they passed the demonstrators. However, most waited for the protesters to continue down the street. Police arrived when the protest reached the intersection of Huron and Main streets. Officers did not interfere with the protest and allowed the group to continue marching.

Saturday’s rally was not the first in recent months. In December, demonstrators convened on the Diag and outside Winter Commencement for “die-ins” to protest police brutality.

Shae Ward, Rosser’s younger sister, participated in the march and thanked the protesters. In an interview Saturday with The Michigan Daily, Ward said she appreciated the turnout. Ward, who lives in Detroit, noted that this is her first time in Ann Arbor since Rosser’s death.

“I’m disappointed, but I hate to say that it is to be expected, unfortunately, with our history in this country,” she said. “I am hoping for a change. I am hoping that the American people — right now, 2015 — will wake up and see what’s going on. And It’s not about class and color. It really is about money.”

Ward described Rosser as a kind, compassionate, soft and highly educated woman who loved Ann Arbor. She added that while Ann Arbor is supposedly a liberal city, racism is prevalent in the AAPD and that citizen groups have spoken about this.

“My hope is that I can get strong enough to speak for her,” Ward said. “Because I know her person. She would have never attacked Officer Ried. She would have never made him feel that he would have to take her life to defuse the situation. That is just outlandish. It totally is outlandish.”

Rackham student Austin McCoy, a member of Ann Arbor to Ferguson, said he hopes that the protest raised awareness about the issue.

“We believe that since the prosecutor made the announcement so late last night that they were trying to evade accountability,” he said. “So this is partly to show that we have some strength and to try hold people responsible but then we hope that this action is one of many. We hope to actually put out some demands and go from there.”

“I think what people can do is join organizations like ours, educate themselves about the criminal justice here, especially it’s inequities when it comes to people of color in this country and make sure they are involved.”

Darius Simpson, a student at Eastern Michigan University who participated in the march, said he hopes the protest inspired further action rather than just personal feelings of accomplishment.

“This is a first step rather than the end all,” Simpson said, “I am hoping folks leave with inspiration and curiosity, because the reality is that people don’t know what to do. They’re not doing stuff because they have no idea where to go and who to talk to.”

In a statement released Friday evening on Facebook, Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor (D) noted the ongoing necessity of combating racial injustice, but also said he believes the officer’s actions were justified in this situation.

“The events of that night of course were a tragedy, but not a tragedy of racism, which is loathsome and unacceptable and contrary to everything Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Police Department stands for,” he said. “The events of November nine were a tragedy of mental illness untreated and drug use unabated. They were a tragedy of a society that does not devote the resources necessary to give help to those who require it.”

Protesters also demonstrated against police brutality at the Ann Arbor City Council meeting in December. During that meeting, the Council voted to equip AAPD officers with body cameras, which are expected to be in operation by the summer.