Spring 2021 Newsletter

Happy spring!

As we’re enjoying the relief of warmer weather and climbing vaccination rates, we wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the impact the pandemic has had on housing in Detroit.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic shock has deepened a nationwide housing security crisis, and nowhere has it been felt harder than in Detroit. Since last summer when the potential scope of the crisis became clear, the Detroit Justice Center has been working alongside movement builders to help get relief for Detroit residents and fight for needed protections against displacement. Local organizers have been able to win some key victories, like the establishment and extension of moratoriums against eviction during the crisis, but the struggle is ongoing and many things remain to be done.

One key housing struggle happening locally is the fight for a right to counsel in Detroit. In some cities like New York City and Cleveland, organizers have successfully pressured local governments to provide funding for attorneys to represent all or most tenants facing eviction in court. We have yet to achieve this here, but a coalition including the ACLU of Michigan, Michigan Legal Services, the United Community Housing Coalition, and DJC has formed which is working towards winning a right to counsel in Detroit.

Another issue local movement groups have been taking on is the terrible phenomenon of police evictions. Perhaps due to their frustrations with eviction moratoriums and court slow-downs related to the pandemic, Detroit landlords have been increasingly using Detroit Police to carry out extra-judicial evictions of their tenants. The landlords often wrongly claim that their own tenants are illegal squatters, and the police have apparently taken landlords at their word and forced residents from their homes under threat of arrest for trespass, with little advance notice and horrible results. But local groups such as Detroit Will Breathe and Detroit Eviction Defense are fighting back, drawing attention to the phenomenon and demanding an end to police evictions. DJC is providing legal support to these groups and the victims of police eviction that they work with while our economic equity team provides legal support to community groups to build community land trusts to create affordable housing that will last for generations.

If you or a loved one is facing eviction in the city of Detroit, we hope you will connect with the coalitions and activists fighting to end illegal foreclosures and evictions.

Joe McGuire, DJC Staff Attorney


What’s Happening at DJC?

Brooklyn Center, where police killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop, was hailed last year as a “police reform model.” Any ounce of relief the court system might offer is fleeting. No trial, conviction, or slate of reforms will stop police from killing Black people or make us safe.“–Amanda Alexander.

DJC’s founding ED Amanda Alexander spoke to the Traverse City Record Eagle and wrote an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press addressing the reality that the Derrick Chauvin verdict does not translate to justice or safety for Black people in the U.S.

The Metro Detroit Restorative Justice Network (MDRJN) is developing a public access directory of restorative justice practitioners and organizations for their website. If you or someone you know is an experienced restorative justice/peacekeeping practitioner, please complete the submission form to submit your information and be included in the directory. Submitters will be notified when their submission has been accepted and published on the MDRJN website. Feel free to contact Angel McKissic (amckissic@detroitjsutice.org) with any questions or concerns. We look forward to making this resource available to the community!

DJC Staff Attorney Whitley Granberry was named a Notable Woman in Law by Crain’s Detroit Magazine. Whitley, who is one half of our Economic Equity team, has a big heart and brilliant mind for building community land trusts, worker-owned cooperatives, and drafting community benefits agreements. At the core of everything she does is a passion for community-defined and community-based solutions. She also deftly manages our internships and teaches barre classes to our staff, keeping us all literally on our toes. We know Whitley is not a fan of this kind of attention, but we’re really proud to see her being recognized for the amazing work she’s doing!

DJC is working on putting together a podcast titled Freedom Dreams this year! We’d love to hear from you about your experience with podcasts in this quick survey. Respondents will receive exclusive content from us as well as our eternal gratitude.

As we prepare to move into our new offices in the LOVE Building in Detroit’s Core City neighborhood, we invite you to read this piece about the building in Yes! Magazine. and if you live in Detroit, we’d love for you to drop by the LOVE on the Block event on June 26th from 1 pm to 6 pm. There will be socially distanced entertainment, activities, and food, and you can learn more about the LOVE Building’s tenant partners.

DJC Managing Attorney Eric Williams spoke to Fox 2 about DPD’s Chief James Craig’s retirement announcement and who might replace him.

Staff Attorney Joe McGuire has been speaking out against evictions in the Detroit Free Press, Fox 2 News, and the Detroit News.

Staff Attorney Erin Keith spoke with Bridge Detroit about the Derrick Chauvin verdict

Communications Manager Casey Rocheteau spoke with Truthout Magazine about why charging former Governor Rick Snyder in the Flint water trials wouldn’t solve the root causes of what allowed the water crisis to happen in the first place.

DJC Staff Attorney Rubina Mustafa spoke with Truthout Magazine and The Guardian about the charges against Detroit protesters who were arrested last summer.

Staff Attorney Nancy Parker spoke with WDET about how the city’s case against protesters fell apart, and was quoted in TheGrio speaking about the refusal to bring charges in Hakim Littleton’s case.

Opportunities and Events

Want to learn more about Michigan’s new process for expungement? Do you or a loved one have a criminal record and want to know if the new laws apply to you? Stay tuned to our Instagram and Facebook spaces as our Community Legal Advocates will be doing a series of digital public education events to help people better understand this process.

What We’re Reading