A nice evening at an art gallery became a nightmare for art patrons in Detroit last Saturday. The Detroit police, dressed in commando uniforms and carrying powerful weapons burst into a regular monthly party at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID) and forced the art lovers to the floor at gunpoint. Aaron Timlin, the Executive Director of the CAID, said “There were serious civil liberties issues here.” Many in the gallery described the police as being abusive to the crowd that was comprised mostly of young people who live in nearby Detroit suburbs.
One patron posted an account of the raid on his MySpace page. In his post, he recalls that, “One man was an attorney. The man stood on his knees, asking the police what was happening, explaining his occupation as an attorney. He was promptly kicked in the back, and forced onto his hands.”
What was the violation that caused the Detroit police commandos to execute a swift and brutal raid upon the patrons of this art gallery? The offense was loitering – which is kind of what you do in an art gallery anyway isn’t it? In total, 130 patrons were issued tickets and 44 of their vehicles were impounded. The police claim the tickets were issued for “loitering in a place of illegal alcohol after hours.” However, when the police visited the CAID six weeks ago over similar “issues” they were described as being “nice and helpful.” Perhaps this was the surveillance before the big raid…they’re sneaky like that.
The Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit is a nonprofit organization that has promoted art and art education in the Detroit area for 29 years. The police commando raid took place in a 119 year old building on the west side of Detroit.