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Detroit police chief addresses viral video taken at protest during President Biden's visit

Detroit police investigate complaints during President Biden speech response
Detroit police investigate complaints during President Biden speech response 03:36

(CBS DETROIT) — The Detroit police chief is addressing the fallout from a pro-Palestinian rally outside of Huntington Place during President Biden's visit on Sunday. 

Some protesters are calling out the DPD for how they say they were treated.

"There was an attempt by the police to pick off a few people to arrest them for absolutely no reason," said Kate Stenvig with BAMN Detroit.

BAMN Detroit gathered to let Biden know they're opposed to the U.S. involvement in the Israel-Hamas war. 

Tim Brown/CBS Detroit

Stenvig believes Detroit police unnecessarily escalated tensions.  

"What I saw was them arrest two people who were on the sidewalk, who were not doing anything other than, you know, being part of the protest and chanting. And I think the police did this as a pretext to be able to, you know, put up a barricade on us," Stenvig said.

BAMN Detroit was one of two groups that organized demonstrations on Sunday. The other, Detroit Will Breathe, started theirs at Hart Plaza and then marched to Huntington Place.

"Immediately, the police were very aggressive, pushing barricades into people, trying to really just harass and intimidate the crowd," said Nakia Wallace, co-founder of Detroit Will Breathe.

Wallace says she's troubled with what happened after the rally was over. 

"They threw one of us on the ground. They tased him as he was already on the ground and pinned down. They grabbed somebody because he's, you know, used profanity, and they didn't like that. So I think they went about it in the way that they did because they did not want all of the people attending the dinner to see the aggressiveness and the force that they wanted to use on us," Wallace said.

On Monday afternoon, Detroit police chief James White said the tasing was attempted, but he is having his top brass look into it.

They're also investigating a viral video in which a DPD lieutenant is heard telling a protester to go back to Mexico.

White says internal affairs has launched an investigation. Preliminary findings show the lieutenant was referring to a trip that he saw on the protestor's social media accounts that she had recently taken and was suggesting that she should go back on vacation.

"Obviously, when I heard that comment, I was very concerned. It's contrary to every message that I put out, and we needed to get out in front of that and find out what's going on. In doing so, we see the context. But that does not say that we don't have some problems with how this whole situation went, and that's where this focus goes to now: policy, procedure, and the conduct of a member of this agency," White said.

He added the lieutenant has been removed from the special unit and is currently on paid leave while internal affairs conduct their investigation. 

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