United Against STRESS
By 1973, Black Detroit was united in political action against STRESS. While the anti-STRESS movement began with radical Black activists at the core, the movement grew in response to the number of killings at the hands of STRESS. A broad coalition of Black activists, as well as some white liberals, called for an end to STRESS and the shootings of Black civilians.
[Add: Police Terror hearings in Chronicle 2-17-73, Buck folder)
The manhunt for Hayward Brown, John Boyd, and Marcus Bethune was a key period in the anti-STRESS movement. To radical activists, the manhunt showed the DPD's corrupt involvement in Detroit's drug trade. Brown, Boyd, and Bethune were activists against drug-dealing in Detroit, and the DPD were framing the three men to cover-up their own corrupt involvement in drug trafficking. Rick Goranowski wrote in "STRESS and Trial in the Streets of Detroit," that Brown, Boyd, and Bethune were a "vigilante group dedicated to community service." He said that they "app[lied] direct pressure upon heroin dealers to curtail their activities." Goranowski wrote that during their work the three men discovered "police complicity in narcotics" and that "their discovery had marked them for death." Goranowski described the manhunt as "placing sections of the Black Ghetto under martial law." The above pamphlet prepared by the Ad Hoc Committee, "Strength to Families under STRESS," reiterates commentary from Goranowski. It said that "contrary to the white news media, the three young brothers... are not gunmen for dope pushers." It called STRESS "Black genocide," and demanded an immediate ban on STRESS.
In response to the flood of complaints about police brutality from Detroit citizens in response to the manhunt, the Detroit City Council called a public hearing for Detroit citizens to voice their concerns and for police commissioner John Nichols to address those concerns. An overwhelming response to this planned hearing forced the city council to move the hearing to the Ford Auditorium. On January 11, 1973, more than 1200 mostly Black Detroiters furious at the Detroit Police Department flooded the Ford Auditorium. Attendees at the hearing called out the fullscale war the Detroit Police Department was waging on Detroit's black community during the manhunt. Family and friends of John Boyd, Mark Bethune, and Hayward Brown spoke at the hearing. Dorothy Clore, Boyd's mother, said "I'm not ashamed of my son. He is not a criminal." She told of the brutal treatment she received from police on the night of December 4th, 1972. Over fifteen armed officers burst into her home, held her family at gunpoint, ransacked her house, and arrested her son, John Clore, who was not involved in the shooting whatsoever, all without providing a warrant or telling her that Boyd was a suspect in the shooting. "I think some of this was done, not because of the shooting incident, but because I am black. I don't think that if Commissioner Nichols' son was a suspect the policeman would have the door down to their house." John Clore also spoke at the hearing and discussed the night of December 4th, when police officers ransacked his family's home and arrested him. The police targeted Clore solely because he was John Boyd's brother. Officers burst into his home, held him at gunpoint and handcuffed him on the floor. After the white police officers left the room, a black police officer mumbled to Clore, "Be cool man, these dudes want to kill you." The police then took Clore downtown to the police station. The officers charged him with attempted murder and resisting arrest and threw him in a cell. They let him out the next afternoon. Because of this arrest, Clore was fired from his job and evicted from his home. The Detroit Police Department derailed an innocent man's life solely because he was related to one of the targets of the manhunt.
Not only relatives of the three wanted men spoke at the hearing. Many different victims of police brutality spoke as well. Peter Oscar said that police officers ransacked his friend's house, took his friend to the police station and beat him, and charged his friend with intent to commit murder all because the police said Oscar's friend was a friend of one of the men pursued in the manhunt. One Detroiter said, "I have fought for your country, I have got shot, me and my lady can't stay home in peace without some of your police officers kicking in my door... I got a complaint too, this man almost killed us." A Wayne State University student said, "The citizens of Detroit have seen enough police intimidation, enough police harassment. We're sick and tired of it. We've been sick and tired for the last few years." A woman at the hearing said, "We will no longer sit back and watch our people being murdered in the streets. We will no longer accept these mad dogs to roam." Attorney Kenneth Cockrel called for Nichols' immediate removal and presented the council with signatures from 30,000 Detroiters calling for the elimination of STRESS.
John Nichols prepared a brief statement for the hearing. After about an hour and a half of complaints from Detroiters, it was Nichols turn to speak, the angry crown did not want to hear it. He began with, "Neither police nor citizens should allow the side issue of possible police misconduct to take priority over the investigation of heinous crimes." Nichols' quote shows that the Detroit Police Department saw the mass-scale ransacking of innocent black family's homes as nothing more than a "side issue." Nichols did not admit to any police wrongdoing, as he said there was "possible police misconduct." He essentially brushed aside all of the anger and complaints from the 1200 people in attendance. The DPD had no desire to serve the interests of black people in Detroit. The police did not care that they were abusing black people during the manhunt. The police did not care that STRESS officers likely provoked the violent confrontation with Brown, Boyd, and Bethune that started the manhunt in the first place. The police did not listen to the avalanche of complaints from black people during the manhunt. And Nichols would not listen to the black community at this hearing either. While he was speaking, the crowd chanted "We want Cockrel!", "Liar!", and booed Nichols. Nichols did not say much else. Because of the crowd, Nichols left the hearing early.
Just one month later, on Febrary 11, 1973, more than 600 people attended an anti-STRESS rally. At the rally, Kenneth Cockrel denounced STRESS as a "murder squad." Cockrel attacked mayoral candidates, saying they were afraid to take a strong stance against STRESS. Cockrel and other speakers at the rally emphasized that STRESS was a political issue and that political candidates should come out against it. Cockrel was correct; mayoral candidates, along with a number of community leaders and organizations, had yet to take a stance on STRESS beyond the vague goal of improved police-community relations. Less than one week later, state senator Coleman Young announced that he was running for mayor of Detroit. Young made abolishing STRESS central to his mayoral campaign. He called STRESS an "execution squad rather than a law enforcement squad." If elected, he promised to fire Nichols and to abolish STRESS.
When Hayward Brown was arrested on January 12, 1973, and was charged with seven counts of assault with intent to commit murder and one count of first-degree murder, community activists rallied in his defense. Prosecutor William Cahalan refused to consolidate these charges, so Brown was to stand trial three times. The Labor Defense Coalition and the Hayward Brown Defense Committee worked to advocate for Brown in court. As Heather Ann Thompson wrote, Brown's trial was just as much about systemic issues of STRESS as it was about Hayward Brown. The LDC argued that STRESS's tactics created the violent scenarios that forced Brown, Boyd, and Bethune to return fire against the officers. During the trial for the December 4th incident, the four STRESS officers testified that they had no reason to stop the trio's car, they simply decided to pull them over. None of the officers actually saw Brown shooting at them. On May 10, 1973, a jury acquitted Brown of all charges in the December 4th shooting. Brown also stood trial for first-degree murder for the December 27, 1972 shooting. The LDC defended Brown here again, and again Brown was acquitted by a jury. On Luly 7, 1973, Brown was again acquitted of his third charge stemming from his January 12, 1973 arrest. After the verdict was read, a crowd of around 40 spectators in the courtroom stood and cheered. With the three trials of Hayward Brown, Detroit activists scored a victory against STRESS.
Police Terror Hearings
Detroit Urban League Records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan
Kenneth V. and Sheila M. Cockrel Collection, Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University
Detroit Free Press, January 12, 1973
Detroit Free Press, February 12, 1973.
Detroit Free Press, February 18, 1973.
Detroit Free Press, May 12, 1973.
Roman S. Gribbs Mayoral Records, Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library
Kenneth V. and Sheila M. Cockrel Collection, Walter P. Reuther Library, Archive of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University
Roman S. Gribbs Mayoral Records, Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library