Kindly introduce yourself.
My name is Gabrielle Boyer. I am a soon to be graduate of Michigan State University College of Law and I am a native Michigander.
Gabrielle, can you tell us shortly what the Cass Tech forum was all about?
Sure, the Black Lives Matter Day at Cass Tech was essentially two things: The morning was a forum with 9 people establishing a dialogue about different perspectives about the deaths of Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice and others that feel victim to police escalation. We had on the panel a police officer, two local BLM activists, a force specialist with the Michigan Police Commission, two prosecutors, a judge and a croak defense attorney. The goal of the forum was to have a dialogue and advise the students of Cass.
Part two was individual classroom breakout sessions taught by law students. The law students taught sessions on what the high school students legal rights are when dealing with police officers. We touched on topics like stop and frisk, illegal searches, and probable cause.
From your perspective, which topic amongst the above mentioned raised much concerns and why?
Stop and frisk. It’s a sensitive issue because all the police need for a stop and frisk is suspicious behavior and a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, which if you’re young and Black could be anything from being in the “wrong neighborhood” to standing around aggressively. These kids are already nervous and many of them have had negative encounters with police. Part of the purpose of law students coming in is because in general we are younger and can relate. I’m a 24-year old Black woman and I was telling these kids how I know what a stop and frisk is because I’ve felt it. I know how humiliating that is.
With other searches and stops you have or at least should have more options and more information from the officer.
Were the Tech students and Invited panel as well as other participants who took part in the forum Black dominated or it was an auditorium of mixed races?
Out of 8 panelists one was white, the rest were Black. The audience was heavily Black dominated, I don’t have the official count but I would say about 90% Black. We also invited a PWI school, Grosse Pointe North to observe and write about the event.
If you can recall, on which subject did the invited white panelist talk on and what was the reaction of the Black students, who formed a bigger percentage of the auditorium?
The white panelist, Daniel Rosa, was the use of force expert with the Michigan Police Commission. He is also a former police officer. Danny touched on several topics but there were two really memorable ones. First he began by saying he wasn’t oblivious to the fact that he was the only white guy. He followed that by saying “if old white guys like me and young Black kids like you can’t talk about this stuff, nothing will ever get done.”
He also did a physical demonstration of reaction time to explain to the kids why and how police officers are trained to react. He showed this by giving them a scenario where he pretended to be armed and they would clap their hand if they felt threatened. The kids clapped at downy times illustrating that doesn’t people react differently.
I think the kids kept an open mind and listened to him, and his insight was great, but I think that a lot of kids connected more to people who looked like them. I think the workshops where they had someone young and Black talking to them almost as peers was really helpful as well.
Was the issue of ‘racism’ a subject or topic at the forum?
Absolutely. Everyone involved addressed this and so did the kids in their questions. We talked about explicit bias and how there are some attempts to screen out racists in police force, but you can’t ever guarantee that. But we need to reform standards from the bottom up and to down.
We talked about how this may not play out so much on Detroit proper but it is apparent in the suburbs where POS “don’t belong.”
Practically what would you say was the impact of this forum on the school kids present at the forum?
We estimated reaching between 800-900 kids on Friday.
My hope is that we impressed that the kids have rights dealing police encounters, but what we wanted them to know is that those rights are secondary and should be hashed it in a court of law AFTER they get home safe. So while it hurts now and the police officer isn’t acting right now, the fight isn’t on the street. It is in the courtroom.
I told each of my classes that I taught that I don’t want to march for them or anyone else. I don’t want another Tamir, Mike, or Sandra. I want them to grow up and be leaders and activists that can change the law with me.
I am not sure, but is this the first time a forum like this has been put together by MSU Law School’s Diversity Services?
Yes, it is a mixture of our Diversity Services, First Amendment Clinic and Street Law Program.
I definitely hope many of such forums will be organized in other schools. Lastly, what was that very particular thing that touched you most about the forum? And any last words for our readers?
Every single one of these kids has the potential to be someone extraordinary. We must foster that. And we can do that best by providing them a service: teaching them their rights and teaching them how to use those rights.
Thank you!
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