James Craig
Surrounded by protesters on Belle Isle, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig was forced to move his announcement to another location. (James Craig campaign photo)

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig launched his run for Michigan governor Tuesday by getting booed off Belle Isle, and then later touted two unfounded allegations about election integrity and Detroit demonstrators.

Craig was shouted down at Belle Isle by protesters organized by Detroit Will Breathe, the group that helped lead last year’s Black Lives Matter marches.


James Craig makes an inaudible message as he is drowned out by Detroit Will Breath protesters at Belle Isle prior to announcing his run for Michigan governor. @freep pic.twitter.com/12ufofzqR8

— Mandi Wright (@DetroitMandi) September 14, 2021

“I’m running for the governor of the state of Michigan!” Craig shouted just before he cut the event short. He and his supporters then left the park. Within minutes, his campaign began using the Belle Isle chaos as a fund-raising message on Facebook.

…And #JamesCraig has already turned the #Detroit #BelleIsle chaos into a fundraising message. @BridgeDet313 pic.twitter.com/buZplfLsaB

— Louis Aguilar (@DetroitAguilar) September 14, 2021

Craig regrouped and held his announcement on the rooftop of the former UAW-GM Center for Human Resources, now called The Icon, at 200 Walker St. on the riverfront. He repeatedly accused the Belle Isle demonstrators of being “paid protesters.”

He has no proof the protesters were paid.

“I don’t know, but I got to believe” that the protesters were paid, he said. “I feel good about it. I feel like they were paid. I don’t have any hard evidence,” he added.

Jae Bass and other protesters
Jae Bass and other protesters booed Craig off Belle Isle yelling, “No justice, no peace, James Craig is still police.” (Marc Klockow photo)

Craig then made a vague allegation about last year’s protests, describing them as a government threat.

“Candidly, when we saw what was going on in our country, it was a coordinated, orchestrated effort to undermine local governments. I saw it,” he said.

The Black Lives Matter demonstrations were arguably one of the largest social justice movements in recent history. At one point, there were over 500 places in the U.S. where protests emerged against police brutality, according to The New York Times. Academics, civil rights leaders and others note that BLM has become a movement that’s shaping debates about systemic injustice in seemingly every avenue of public life.

Lloyd Simpson
Lloyd Simpson of Detroit Will Breathe helped rally the crowd of about 50 protesters. (Marc Klockow photo)

Locally, Detroit Will Breathe led a series of protests against police violence and mass incarceration.

Craig’s view on last year’s demonstrations is fueling his belief about paid protesters. He has often said that many of the protesters were not from Detroit. “They do not speak for most Detroiters — they just don’t,” Craig said Tuesday.

“So, if you think this was just done in a vacuum, no, I believe they were paid. I absolutely believe they were paid.”

this is how this went:
reporter: Who paid the protesters?
Craig: I don’t know, but I gotta believe —
reporter: Then how do you know?
Craig: I feel good about it, I feel like they were paid. I don’t have any hard evidence but —
reporter: is that how you operate as an officer then? https://t.co/anESVuYFBL

— violet ikonomova (@violetikon) September 14, 2021

Election fraud

Craig has adapted the current Republican tactic of both acknowledging there is no evidence of election fraud that took place last November while endorsing more divisive investigations. He also expressed sympathy for those who are still skeptical.

“I have not seen any investigation that shows that the election was fraud — although I will say that there are many Michiganders, and many across our country, who feel there was problems. And we should listen to those folks,” he said.

In June, a monthslong Republican investigation into Michigan’s 2020 election was released. It uncovered no evidence of widespread fraud and recommended that the Michigan attorney general investigate those who made false claims for “personal gain.”

The 35-page report prepared by state Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, dives deep to debunk conspiracy theories perpetuated by former President Donald Trump and some of his supporters in the wake of the Michigan election, which Democratic President Joe Biden won by 154,188 votes.

Detroit Will Breathe protester
Detroit Will Breathe protesters said James Craig was ineffective and did not reduce crime in Detroit. (Marc Klockow photo)

Though the Senate Oversight Committee investigation revealed some “glaring issues” and vulnerabilities that the Legislature should fix, “there is no evidence presented at this time to prove either significant acts of fraud or that an organized, wide-scale effort to commit fraudulent activity was perpetrated in order to subvert the will of Michigan voters,” McBroom wrote.

“Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan,” the report concluded.

In August, a U.S. District Court issued a blistering 110-page opinion against the attorney and her colleagues who tried to overturn Michigan’s 2020 election.

Judge Linda Parker said the so-called “kraken” lawsuit that sought to declare Trump the winner of an election he lost was a “historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.”

Attorney Sidney Powell and colleagues must pay state and city legal bills, undergo professional training and be investigated for potential suspension or disbarment, the federal judge ruled.

Still, Craig appeared receptive to having Michigan undergo a costly and divisive “forensic audit” as in Arizona.

“I know in the great state of Arizona they are doing a forensic audit. Let’s see what that audit shows us,” he said.

Craig was referring to an unprecedented partisan recount and review of election results in Arizona’s most populous county. It was prompted by Trump’s loss in the reliably Republican state and his contention without evidence that he lost Arizona and other battleground states because of fraud.

The audit is being run by a private contracting firm with little election experience. The firm’s CEO has embraced Trump’s claim of a rigged election. The effort has been derided as incompetent and unwarranted by outside experts, the Justice Department, and even other Arizona Republicans. Nevertheless, the audit continues.

Louis Aguilar is BridgeDetroit’s senior reporter. He covered business and development for the Detroit News, and is a former reporter for the Washington Post.

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1 Comment

  1. Craig is not a good pick but man! Calling audits divisive and so on? You’re not a reporter, you’re and activist. Was it divisive when Hillary demanded a recount after Trump won? If so, please reply with your article stating that. I’ll wait

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