During the whirlwind of a year that was 2020, organizations in Ypsilanti came together to create a safe space for people across the state to come and receive car repairs, with a mission of reducing unnecessary traffic stops.
Now celebrating the event's two-year anniversary, Pull Over Prevention (POP) Clinics has grown from a small group idea to a large mutual aid festival, hosted almost every second Saturday of the month in the parking lot of Masjid Ibrahim on 315 South Ford Blvd.
"It's been really fun to watch when we first started this it was just my husband and a couple of other mechanics just changing light bulbs, that was it," said one of the event's organizers, Sheri Wander from Peace House Ypsilanti. "Now it has grown into this monthly festival of mutual aid."
Wander added: "There's the slogan 'Strong communities make police obsolete' and I think that that's really true and so for me the most meaningful part of the event is that we are building community and building alternatives to calling in law enforcement or state agencies to help one another."
Alongside the Huron Valley Democratic Socialists of America and the Mutual Aid Network of Ypsilanti, Peace House Ypsilanti was one of the original organizations that helped create the event. Now, the organizers fluctuate, keeping a core consistent group of three to four people.
At the most recent pop-up hosted last Saturday, Peace House was present, providing free garden produce, harm reduction supplies and more.
The last repair clinic also included free literature, free meals provided by Fed-Up Ministries, free pet food and supplies from Pet Pals Mutual Aid and harm reduction materials from Home of New Vision. Normally, there is also a pop-up vaccine clinic present with the Washtenaw County Health Department.
In addition, the event always has free child care on-site with a tent dedicated to fun activities for kids to partake in while waiting on their parents' car repair to finish.
The next pop-up repair festivals this year are scheduled for Sept. 10 and Oct. 8 at the same time and place.
"Through the course of the event, we sort of picked up some other organizations who are there to help," said Shane Mall, one of the event's organizers. "Basically anybody who's got a thing they do that helps other people, if they wanna throw a canopy up and join us at our event, we're always more than welcome, everybody's welcome basically."
Mall said that he joined Pull Over Prevention in the very beginning when he responded to a Facebook post looking for volunteers and ended up quickly taking over the car portion of the event.
"I run the mechanical side of things because I was born into the car repair industry and so because I've been in and around car dealerships my entire life I sort of knew how to make things happen," Mall said. "The rest of the organizers, they're good at organizing people, they're good at putting on events of this nature, but when it comes to car knowledge, that's where I come in."
While it isn't legal to do large car repairs outside of a licensed mechanics shop and not everything can be fixed at the event, organizers do try hard to help with what they can.
"If your headlights or brake lights don't work, we will do our best to get them working whether it's just a bulb or maybe even some light electrical diagnosis and that sort of thing," Mall said. "Not everything can be fixed in the parking lot of a church, but we do our best."
Apart from the event's main mission, to reduce unnecessary traffic stops, a side goal of the event is to make driving safer for everyone, since ideally everyone's lights will be working.
"The way in which the event has grown is a really beautiful model of the way abolition grows," Wander said. "It is about creating the path by walking it."
Since the event's organizers are from Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, it is held in close proximity to serve a community they are familiar with. However, everyone is welcome and there have been similar events held in other Michigan cities such as Adrian and Jackson.
"Ideally, we're looking to serve the underserved and, specifically, people of color, however, as it turns out from stories I've heard from people, it's not just people of color who get victimized by law enforcement in this particular scenario, it's actually everybody who's poor and or drives a jacked-up car," Mall said. "It's not the individual police officers' fault as much as it is the system."
While the event was initially started up by the Huron Valley Democratic Socialists of America, the Mutual Aid Network of Ypsilanti and Peace House Ypsilanti, the core team of people who currently run the event fluctuates.
"POP entails more than a free car service, however. The events seek to build strong, self-sufficient communities that provide each other with the material support often missing in a society that eagerly finances corporations but abandons its citizens," said a news release.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Pull Over Prevention event in Ypsilanti provides free car repairs