Judge To Rule On Chelsea Protest Tickets
February 22, 2021
By Jon King / firstname.lastname@example.org
A Washtenaw County judge is set to rule today on whether citations issued last summer during a racial injustice protest in Chelsea should be dismissed.
That follows a protest Friday in front of the Chelsea Police Department after Chief Edward Toth said his department will not dismiss the civil charges against 29 people issued $180 tickets for impeding traffic. All of those who were ticketed last July, including seven minors, were members of the youth-led Anti-Racist Chelsea Youth (ARCY) group. They alleged that Chelsea Police targeted them exclusively, including taking surveillance pictures. Earlier last week, Chelsea City Council voted unanimously to recommend that Chief Toth dismiss the charges.
However, Toth says it is not within their authority to drop civil charges once they have been submitted to the court. However, Linda Bernard, a member of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners and an attorney who has argued cases in the U.S. Supreme Court told The Detroit Free Press that she disagrees with that assessment and that his legal authority includes whether or not to “withdraw or reject anything that’s issued by any member of his department.”
In a statement issued late Friday, Chelsea Police said that the tickets were necessary, "because of the ARCY group's lack of leadership and organization." The statement says that police tried several times to speak with the leaders of ARCY about a planned route for the march, but "no one would commit to a route for the actual march in advance of the event," nor did anyone apply for a road closure permit. Chelsea Police add that they "very deliberately and purposely chose the most benign and least severe enforcement option at their disposal," but would not move to dismiss the tickets.
Protestors who showed up Friday pointed out that the City of Detroit dismissed charges against hundreds of protesters, many of whom violated curfew. In addition, court documents indicate that both the American Civil Liberties Union and attorneys with the University of Michigan Law School argue Chelsea police “illegally infringed on (defendants’) constitutionally protected right to engage in core political speech in the public spaces where the exchange of ideas is to be most open.”
Also set to be in court today is 34-year-old Kayla Vaillancourt, who was charged with assault and battery after allegedly attacking a 16-year-old, Mya King, during a previous racial injustice protest on June 25th. King, who is one of those that received a ticket for participating in the July protest, has claimed that Chelsea Police failed to properly investigate the assault.
Officer Rick Cornell was placed on administrative leave over his handling of the assault case and after several posts on his social media were termed to be racist and “glorified police misconduct.” Cornell later resigned.