As a member of DJJ I was able to attend a rally and march on Saturday Jan. 16th sponsored by Detroit Will Breathe and Detroit Eviction Defense. The protest was in support of Whitney Burney, a northwest Detroit woman and her children who were wrongfully evicted from their home on December 19, 2020 with the assistance of four officers from the Detroit Police Department. The landlord contacted the police who claimed Ms. Burney was squatting in his property. These accusations were false and police did not look at evidence Ms. Burney tried to present and put many of the families belongings on the street and would not allow entrance into the house to retreat Christmas presents, personal belongings including the children’s laptops for school. She and her children had to go to a homeless shelter.
Ms. Burney contacted Detroit Eviction Defense. Joe McGuire, representative, spoke at the rally and a report was filed against this illegal eviction. Ms. Burney additionally explained that the landlord, a registered sex offender, made sexual advances. Her children were also traumatized having to witness the eviction. Congresswoman Rashida Tliab spoke and addressed the sexual advances by predatory landlords targeting single mothers. This is not an isolated incident and often undocumented mothers become victims of this as well, she explained.
Protesters marched from Nardin Park to the 10th Police Precinct on Livernois and presented a letter outlining the illegal procedures used by officers and demanded the names of the officers participating be revealed and that they be terminated. Protestors were chanting "justice for the Burney’s" and "no to evictions". There was also a car caravan. They were told by Commanders that an investigation is underway. The protest was given broad media coverage by the Detroit News and Channel 4 and Fox News.
Because of the intervention of DWB and DED it is anticipated that the City of Detroit will help pay damages but compensation has yet to be received including replacing the children’s laptops. They have been placed in a hotel and waiting to secure a suitable residence which should be available next month. If you would like to help, a Go Fund Me page has been set up, https://gofund.me/1f90ddbe.
Bobbi Spiegler, DJJ member and immigration justice liaison