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BLM protesters heckle, swarm former Detroit top cop James Craig, a black Republican, as he announces bid for MI governor
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BLM protesters heckle, swarm former Detroit top cop James Craig, a black Republican, as he announces bid for MI governor

Black Lives Matter and anti-police protesters shouted down former Detroit Police Chief James Craig as he attempted to announce his candidacy for governor of Michigan in Belle Isle on Tuesday.

A crowd of about 50 protesters chanted "Black Lives Matter," "No justice, no peace, James Craig is still police," and other heckling jeers as they swarmed the podium where Craig, a black Republican, attempted to make a speech.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Craig's speech was delayed by about 20 minutes before he finally shouted: "I've got one thing to say: I'm running for governor!"

He was then hurried away by campaign staff into a black SUV as protesters pressed in around him and his team.

A spokesman for Craig said he would return eventually, but the protesters shouted vulgar jeers and gave him the middle finger as the candidate was driven away.

The campaign relocated to the rooftop of the former UAW GM Center for Human Resources building, where Craig delivered his speech against the backdrop of the Detroit skyline, Chad Livengood reported for Crain's Detroit Business.

After relocating, Craig told the Detroit News he was disappointed that the demonstrators lacked respect for his First Amendment right to speak.

"They wanted to disrupt the speech, and they did that," he said.

He also criticized the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for failing to provide security for his campaign event.

"The DNR knew about the potential for protests yesterday, I'm told. ... They indicated they were going to come and move the protesters back," Craig said. "That never happened. So it makes me wonder if it was by design."

He further accused the department of having "no respect for my safety or the safety of my team. They would not show up knowing that this group had the potential to become violent."

Speaking at his second campaign event, Craig said the hecklers were a "small group of paid protesters" who never should have been allowed to disrupt his event.

"I know who they are, and they know who I know who they are," he said. "They do not represent the majority of Detroiters."

The protesters belonged to a group called Detroit Will Breathe, a Black Lives Matter activist group that protested in Detroit after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. During those protests, Craig was still serving as chief of police in Detroit before retiring on June 1 of this year.

Detroit Will Breathe supports defunding the police and has alleged that Craig's police officers used unjustified force against their protests. In fall 2019, the group sued to ban Detroit cops from using batons, riot gear, tear gas, and rubber bullets against protesters. The group repeatedly called for Craig to be fired.

Craig, 44, was the chief of Detroit police for nearly eight years before retiring. Born and raised in Detroit, he worked for the Los Angeles Police Department for nearly three decades before becoming the chief of police in Portland, Maine, in 2009. In 2011, he became the chief of the Cincinnati Police Department before moving back to Detroit about two years later.

A conservative, Craig became a regular feature on Fox News and in several conservative media outlets as a foil to Democrats who supported gun control and the defund the police movement.

He had been teasing his run for governor as a Republican for months before officially joining the race this week.

Craig joins nine other Michigan Republicans who are vying to unseat Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who faces intense criticism for her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As chief of police, Craig was responsible for enforcing Whitmer's coronavirus lockdown orders, including restrictions on businesses and face mask requirements.

As a candidate for governor, Craig has criticized Whitmer's policies but defended his record, saying he would not defy her orders as other Republican law enforcement officials did because that wasn't his job.

"We wrote something like 6,000 tickets," Craig said in August. "[I] didn't like it, absolutely didn't like it, but I'm the police chief, I follow rules and in law enforcement you are nonpartisan."

"So, I followed what was passed down from the governor to our mayor."

He added that he ordered his department to stop issuing citations for coronavirus violations after he witnessed that protesters in Lansing were not being fined for neglecting to wear masks.

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