Chelsea State Bank ad

Letter to the Editor: A Call for Constructive De-escalation

Dear Editor:

Having worked for nearly 15 years as an expert witness helping the courts evaluate evidence in discrimination cases, I am acutely aware of the fact that controversies regarding race can spin out of control with remarkable speed and power.

I am writing to urge the members of the Chelsea City Council to act immediately on an initiative that many members of the community will welcome: Please add to the City Council agenda, and support, discussion of a non-binding resolution that urges the Chelsea Police Department to refrain from arresting protesters who march with the group calling itself Anti-Racist Chelsea Youth during its weekly protest which is held each Thursday evening at 6:00 pm in Pierce Park and downtown Chelsea.

Ordinarily, a group wishing to march down the middle of Route 52 would ask for, and secure, a permit for such a protest. Unfortunately, in this case a permit is not possible: Anti-Racist Chelsea Youth is a decentralized, autonomously-led group that has no formal governance structure, so there is no one to ask for, or sign, a permit request.

Accordingly, it is up to our local police to show restraint, even though – technically speaking — one could imagine a scenario where every protest marcher was arrested for unlawful assembly as soon as the group had four or more members, (Mich. Compiled Laws §750.543) or for refusal to disperse when asked by the police (MCL §750.523), or for blocking vehicular traffic (MCL §257.676b).

A “Sense of The Council Resolution” would be non-binding (just like similar resolutions in Congress) but it would help de-escalate the situation enormously.

Notably, a non-binding Sense of the Council Resolution is apparently allowed by our city charter — under §3.2, §8.4(a), §8.5(b), and §14.2(b); and, non-binding motions have a long distinguished history in the US Senate, the US House, and Michigan’s own Senate.

In addition to a non-binding resolution, I suggest the City Council convene one or more Mutual Listening Session(s), where members the of police force, the City Council, Anti-Racist Chelsea Youth, and interested members of the public could meet in a neutral setting to discuss some of the details about moving forward as a cooperative and respectful community.

Having seen legal controversies regarding race devolve into chaos and acrimony with alarming swiftness, despite the efforts of many well-intentioned people, I urge Chelsea’s City Council to act quickly and decisively to de-escalate the situation before it’s too late.

Palmer Morrel-Samuels, MA, M.Phil, PhD, MSc in Law
Chelsea, MI

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

9 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor: A Call for Constructive De-escalation”

  1. “Anti-Racist Chelsea Youth is a decentralized, autonomously-led group that has no formal governance structure, so there is no one to ask for, or sign, a permit request.” My first thought – this group needs to develop and implement leadership and structure, if only to protect themselves. What prevents members of other less peaceful/more aggressive groups and organizations (such as BLM and Antifa) from infiltrating and marching with this group? What about objectors? I can see this scenario spiraling rapidly into chaos. Would you expect the Chelsea PD to stand-down and allow this type of thing to happen? I hope not. We need our Police Department and the rule of law.

    Reply
  2. I wholeheartedly agree. Is there anyway the police could give an unofficial escort to the demonstrators? Possibly both sides could have a discussion and learn from each other. We need to de-escalate all of this and start having meaningful discussions on how to improve relationships – standoffs, accusations, etc only serve to cause wider division. And to quote from Mr. Morrel-Samuels.
    ” I suggest the City Council convene one or more Mutual Listening Session(s), where members the of police force, the City Council, Anti-Racist Chelsea Youth, and interested members of the public could meet in a neutral setting to discuss some of the details about moving forward as a cooperative and respectful community.”

    Reply
  3. Why is it necessary for them to march down the middle of M-52 each week? Wouldn’t their peaceful presence – marching and chanting on the sidewalk be seen by more people, than shutting the street down? I’d think that motorists would easily notice the crowd as they were driving, whereas they wouldn’t even know what is going on if their route is simply detoured.

    Reply
  4. Kudos Dr. Morrel-Samuels for an explanation of the current situation in terms that are clear to the most average person (like me :-)) I hope the City Council and everyone else involved takes his advice as much as possible. We as a community knows how to listen to each other given the opportunity.

    Reply
  5. One comment
    M 52 is a state highway you may not block the road with out the proper permits no matter who you are or what you / they represent.
    I am very surprised they are allowed to take over the road as they are in direct violation.
    I am hoping no one is in need of emergency services during the take over. The state will not allow the city to put up crosswalk signage for the safety of our community. I am feeling very sure they would not allow the take over for the protests.

    Reply
  6. Why can’t it be sufficient to let it be known that blocking the road is an illegal act and won’t be tolerated.
    Give them a prominent spot where they can be seen without causing chaos.
    Geez Louise, I guess we’re not in Chelsea anymore.

    Reply
    • I was in Jackson several weeks ago and protesters were lining both sides of West Ave. during a busy traffic time. Their signs and presence were strong and they stayed on the sidewalks, obeying traffic laws. ‘Taking over’ the street is not necessarily going to change people’s minds on any particular issue, but repeated unlawful takeover will annoy them to the point that they won’t want to listen to what protesters have to say.
      I agree with Randy, give them a prominent spot where they can be seen and heard and even get engaged in meaningful dialogue with others. A state highway isn’t the place for it.

  7. We are fortunate to live in a town where there are youngsters with such egalitarian sensibilities. Let’s promote listening and reach an arrangement that works for everyone.

    Reply

Leave a Comment