Liberty at the Movies: Detroit

Another great movie to watch in Black History Month is Detroit, which focuses on the Aliers Hotel incident that took place during the riots of 1967. The riots started after Detroit police raided an unlicensed, after hours club on the office of a local civil rights organization. The raid caused tensions between the African-American population and the police to boil over, leading to major riots and the calling out of the National Guard.

The Aliers hotel incident took place during the riots at the Aliers hotel where the local police raided part of the hotel after someone shot a cap gun at them. The cops (aided by the National Guard) line up suspects, nine African-American plus two white females, to interrogate about the location of the gun.

The police line up the suspects and use threats and physical force to intimidate them. When the suspects/hostages do not provide any information the cops begin taking them into separate rooms and firing weapons close to their heads so those in the hall think the police are killing them. Things go astray when one of the officers actually shoots someone, causing the police to release all remaining suspects/hostages on the condition they do not say anything. The hostage scenes are incredibly intense and suspenseful.

Of course, this does not remain a secret , the three officers are put on trial (along with an African-American security guard who assisted the National Guard in order to minimize the violence on both sides). The officers are acquitted because they were not read their Miranda rights before giving statements admitting their guilt. The anger over this outcome is understandable but, as the judge says police officers deserve the same due process rights as all other citizens.

One of the saddest parts of the movie is the story of Larry Reed. Reed was a singer for the R’n’B group the Dramatics but left music after being held at gun point by police because he did not want to play before multi-racial audiences.

Detroit is a well done film with a story that, in the era of debate over police militarization and racial disparities in the criminal justice system, is just as relevant today as in 1967.

You can help Campaign for Liberty by downloading Detroit here.

Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF