Black Youth Project 100, Michigan Abolition Alliance, Mertilla Jones, others demand end to new Wayne Co. Jail, Dan Gilbert’s gentrification of Detroit

Protest held at new jail construction site during rush hour April 21, 2017; dozens honked horns in support

Group previously disrupted Feb. 16 Wayne County Commission meeting where commissioners voted $500,000 to study Gilbert jail swap proposal

Mertilla Jones announces protest on 2nd anniversary of 19-year-old dad Terrance Kellom’s execution by Detroit and ICE, to be held Thurs. April 27 from 1-3 pm outside the Frank Murphy Hall, Gratiot and St. Antoine

By Diane Bukowski

April 25, 2017

DETROIT — As evening rush hour traffic raced down Gratiot April 21, youth from Black Youth Project 100 and others, including Mertilla Jones, grandmother of Aiyana Jones, protested outside the foreboding structure of the half-done Wayne County Jail, calling for millions to be spent on schools, housing, and water for the people instead.  

Yana (center) was among these protesters outside the failed Wayne County Jail site April 21, 2017

I don’t want to see any jail, abolish jails, stop mass incarceration of Black people, it’s all connected,” a young woman named Yana told VOD.

“We have money to support stadiums and jails, but a bunch of schools closing, that’s fine.  The school to jail pipeline is so obvious right now, like crowded schools, kids get disinterested, kids get ignored, and the next thing you know they’re in the streets, they haven’t learned anything. It’s perfect for the people in charge—all you have to do is lock ’em all up, put ’em away, and you can have all the white people come and enjoy all the fruits of the labor. It’s not OK.”

David Langstaff of the Michigan Abolition Alliance said the group earlier disrupted a Wayne County Commission meeting on multi-billionaire developer Dan Gilbert’s proposal to build a soccer stadium at the failed jail site, while constructing an entirely new “justice complex” at the current site of the Wayne County Lincoln Hall of Justice (Youth Division) on East Forest and I-75.

Langstaff and others demanded a complete end to prisons and police as they are currently configurated, calling instead for people’s “restorative justice.” He said the group’s fight against mass incarceration began with support for a national strike by prisoners Sept. 9, 2016, on the anniversary of the historic Attica prison rebellion in 1971. Prisoners from Michigan’s Kinross Correctional Facility took part. (See

Arthur, a leader of Black Youth Project 100, a national organization, spoke at the rally. He said the group has chapters here in Detroit, Chicago, New York City, and New Orleans, among others. They have a Facebook page at and a website at

The Detroit Public School system, largely under state-appointed CEO’s and emergency managers, has shut down over 224 schools in the city beginning in 2005 with its initial closing of 50 schools. Last year, the entire district was demolished and replaced with the “Detroit Public Schools Community District.” The previous DPS was left to pay off the gargantuan debt accumulated by the state during its reign since 1999.

The state recently claimed it would not shut 24 more schools “for the time being,” but would hand over such classic historic schools as Durfee Middle/Elementary to a “non-profit” organization called “Life Re-Modeled,” which intends to transform them into incubators for entrepreneurs. Many activists in Detroit continue to fight the closures as depicted in the video by We the People of Detroit and Kate Levy below.

The Last Cut? We the People of Detroit Documentary on School Closings from Kate Levy on Vimeo. (One correction by VOD: the closings did not begin in 2009, but in 2005 as covered by this author in the pages of the now defunct Michigan Citizen. The state first took over the district in 1999 despite the fact that it was running a budget surplus and students’ grades were on the rise.)

Mertilla Jones, still grieving over police slaughter of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones May 16, 2010

Mertilla Jones, who was sleeping with her seven-year-old granddaughter Aiyana Jones when a military-style Detroit police raid team broke into their home May 16, 2011, and shot the child to death, joined the protest at the Wayne County Jai as well.

She called for the youth present to attend a protest called by P.O.S.T. (Protect Our Stolen Treasures) on the second anniversary of the multi-police task force execution of Terrance Kellom April 27, 2015.The protest will take place Thurs. April 27, 2017 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Frank Murphy Hall across the street from the Wayne County Jail ruin.

Jones said she will not stop fighting the system that slaughtered her beautiful granddaughter and has incarcerated Aiyana’s  father Charles Jones and his brother Norbert Jones for crimes they did not commit. They are part of the 2.5 million people incarcerated in the U.S., which has five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of its incarcerated population.

Jones was at the protest to represent P.O.S.T. as well, part of a national coalition of families and friends who have lost loved ones to police violence.



Thurs. April 27, 1 to 3 pm,

Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, Gratiot at St. Antoine in downtown Detroit.


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