Hero Michigan Cops Protect Neighborhood From Black People Interested In Real Estate
Roy Thorne and his 15-year-old son were touring a home in Wyoming, Michigan, last week with Thorne's real estate agent, when an armed gang surrounded the house. Thorne feared for their lives, especially since the gang wore uniforms and carried badges. There was an even greater chance they could die.
Thorne's son, Samuel, was checking out his possible bedroom upstairs when he saw the cops outside. Thorne noticed that two of the officers had guns drawn and were communicating using hand signals, like it was a SWAT raid. Thorne, an Army veteran, told his son and his real estate agent, Eric Brown, to get on the floor and stay away from the windows. Thorne called out to a cop through an open window, and the cop reflexively pointed his gun at him. Thorne patiently explained to the cop that the three of them were leaving the house with their hands up. You'll notice that Thorne is managing all the dispute resolution and de-escalation.
From the Washington Post:
"I was scared," Thorne said. "I was scared for my son."
The thought that raced through Brown's head: "We're going to die today."
Still not explaining what was going on, the cops cuffed Brown, Thorne, and his teenage son in broad daylight in front of everyone in the neighborhood. It almost goes without saying that they are Black.
This reportedly all happened because a neighbor saw the three enter the house and assumed they were breaking in. The Kent County Dispatch Center received the following call on August 2 at 2 p.m.:
Last week Saturday the police came out … there was a young Black man that was squatting in a home that's for sale, and I know they came and took him away and towed his car away. Well, he's back there again. The car's sitting out front.
Neither Brown, Thorne, or Samuel were the same “young Black man" who'd previously squatted in the home. The car that was towed away was a black Mercedes, and Brown's car is a Hyundai Genesis. If you can't tell the difference between Black people, you'll probably also confuse our cars.
Police video footage, which actually worked this time, showed Brown patiently explaining to the police that he's a real estate agent who was permitted to show his client the house. He asked the officer to check his real estate license in his wallet. This was his human credential, and if you're Black, you make a point of always carrying some form of human credential because your humanity alone is never sufficient when the cops are involved.
"I don't get how we were treated as a threat when we're clearly not one. If we were White, that wouldn't happen," Thorne said, noting there had been as many as 40 showings without incident in the three weeks that house had been on the market.
The police claimed this was a “misunderstanding" and apologized, but not in any way that actually mattered. They didn't concede that Brown, Thorne, or his son had suffered an injustice and shouldn't have been cuffed in the first place, with the burden to prove they weren't criminals. That's not how it's supposed to work in the land of the free, but unfortunately, that's just life for Black people in a critically racist America. What is otherwise a mundane activity for white Americans can end in handcuffs, shame, and terror.
Thorne correctly believed they were racially profiled, but the police of course deny this accusation and released their boilerplate gaslighting statement:
"Community members and the media have asked for a response regarding whether or not the race of the Realtor and his clients played a role in the police response to this incident," the statement said, in part. "After a thorough internal review of the actions of each of our public safety officers who responded to this incident, we have concluded race played no role in our officers' treatment of the individuals who were briefly detained, and our officers responded appropriately. While it is unfortunate that innocent individuals were placed in handcuffs, our officers responded reasonably and according to department policy based on the information available to them at the time."
There were at least a zillion different ways this could've been resolved without handcuffing innocent people, including a minor child. They could've run Brown's license plate and determined his Hyundai wasn't a Mercedes. They could've also rung the doorbell and announced themselves, giving Brown the opportunity to show his human credentials before the situation escalated.
"I'm just really confused, and it's … super, super stressful," Brown said.
The police's statement plays to a pleasing lie about law enforcement: That their egregious actions against Black people, tracing back to 18th Century slave patrols, aren't actually racist, even though no one seriously believes the average white person would experience anything similar. No one is calling the cops on a white realtor named Barb who's showing a white man and his son a house that's for sale.
Although one of the officers claimed the nosey Mrs. Kravitz next door was “chewed out" for their BS false alarm, the cops didn't drag that person out of the house at gun point and cuff them. There are rarely negative repercussions for white people who sic the cops on innocent Black people, even when it can result in someone's death, like Tamir Rice. The white woman whose lies inspired white men to murder Emmett Till is still alive.
The experience also ensured that Thorne wouldn't buy the house, which he confirmed while in handcuffs. Calling the cops whenever Black people tour the house next door is an effective way to keep the neighborhood white. It's quite a system they have.
"If you see a crime, report a crime," Thorne said. "But if you see us just living life the same way you do, just let us do that."
That's asking a lot of white people.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."