10 Biden protesters detained during president's Detroit visit, police say

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A protester arrested Sunday following President Joe Biden’s campaign stop in Detroit is facing a charge of felony assault on a police officer while niine other protesters have been issued misdemeanor citations, police said in a Monday news conference.

A police lieutenant also has been placed on administrative duty amid a misconduct probe into a remark captured in a widely shared social media video, sparking accusations of racism.

Detroit Police Chief James White did not elaborate on the circumstances of the felony arrest or release the person's name. A spokeswoman with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy's Office did not have information on the incident as of Monday afternoon.

Dozens marched from Hart Plaza to the 69th annual NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner at Huntington Place to protest Biden's Gaza war policy Sunday, the latest wave of backlash for the president in the crucial swing state of Michigan.

Pro-Palestinian protesters rally outside of Huntington Place before the 69th annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit on Sunday, May 19, 2024.
Pro-Palestinian protesters rally outside of Huntington Place before the 69th annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit on Sunday, May 19, 2024.

Tensions flared between police and demonstrators as a line of officers closed in on the group, video posted online showed. A demonstrator can be seen pushing a barricade against officers and an officer responds by reaching over and grabbing the demonstrator's head.

One of the groups that organized the event, Detroit Will Breathe, said an officer used a Taser on a demonstrator who was arrested while they were pinned to the ground. White said the Taser did not take effect, but that the department was investigating.

In addition to the protester police say faces a felony charge, another was arrested for disorderly conduct and eight were detained, ticketed and released, police said. At least four misdemeanor citations were for interfering with an officer, Detroit Will Breathe organizer Brian Silverstein said.

Listen to Michigan leader Lexis Zeidan speaks during a news conference in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue in downtown Detroit on Monday, May 20, 2024. Zeidan spoke about her interaction with a Detroit Police lieutenant who commented on her going back to Mexico referencing social media photos of her trip while she was protesting outside of an NAACP fundraising dinner attended by President Joe Biden over the weekend while calling for a Free Palestine.

"These attacks are part of a national trend of escalating repression of dissent, an attack on the right to free speech, and an attack on anyone standing against the genocide of Palestinians and protesting state violence," a Detroit Will Breathe statement said. "These attacks are not only sanctioned by the Democratic Party but a clear expression of their willingness to use violence and force to silence the movement."

Monday's police news conference was called in response to a video widely shared on social media showing a police lieutenant telling Palestinian organizer Lexis Zeidan, “Why don’t you go back to Mexico?" But the video also showed the officer, shortly after the comment, add "you were hanging out there and having a good time.” Zeidan had recently posted photos from a trip to Mexico, and at a separate Monday news conference accused the Detroit police lieutenant of surveilling her and issuing threats.

The department has opened an internal investigation into whether the interaction violated department policy and removed the lieutenant from his post pending its outcome. White sought to downplay concerns over potential monitoring, saying "We aren't keeping tabs on people."

Police could be heard threatening the demonstrators with arrest in videos posted to social media, telling them to clear the sidewalk.

The protest was the second to greet Biden during his Sunday visit to metro Detroit, where he has faced significant backlash over his handling of the Gaza war, particularly among Arab Americans. Earlier in the day, he was met with chants of “Genocide Joe” during a stop at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.

The U.S. has given more than $14 billion in military aid to Israel since it launched its war on Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks.

Earlier this month, Biden paused some weapons shipments to the country and threatened to further curtail spending in opposition to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s planned ground invasion of the port city of Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population has sought shelter. At the same time, however, Biden signaled he would move forward on another $1 billion sale of arms and ammunition to the country.

Free Press intern Jalen Williams and Free Press staff writer Niraj Warikoo contributed reporting.

Violet Ikonomova is an investigative reporter at the Free Press. Contact her at vikonomova@freepress.com.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: 10 Biden protesters detained during president's Detroit visit, police say