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Published: Thursday, 12/20/2012 - Updated: 3 years ago

2-town protest in Mich. targets racial injustice

Rally p eaceful in riot-torn area


BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- About 200 demonstrators marched yesterday from Benton Harbor to neighboring St. Joseph to protest racism and injustice.

The 1 1/2-mile march started outside Benton Harbor City Hall, crossed the bridge over the St. Joseph River, and ended at the Berrien County Courthouse, where a 90-minute rally ensued.

Benton Harbor was the site of two nights of rioting last month after a police chase during which a local motorcyclist died when he crashed into a vacant building. The Berrien County prosecutor has since cleared police of any wrongdoing in the death of Terrance Devon Shurn, 27.

The rioting and public outcry after the incident highlighted Benton Harbor's bleak economic outlook and focused attention on the disparity between the city's mostly black population and St. Joseph, with its largely white population, across the river.

Joe Walker, 70, a resident of East Grand Rapids, said he attended yesterday's protest -- organized by the Southwest Michigan Coalition Against Racism and Police Brutality -- to help focus attention on "institutional racism."

"It's just a demonstration that will get some people's attention and it may start some dialogue," Mr. Walker said.

Protesters shouted chants of "What do we want? Justice!" and "No justice, no peace, no racist police!" as they marched between the two cities.

Demonstrator Roy McGowan, 29, of Chicago said he belongs to an activist group called the Federation of Revolutionary Anarchist Collectives, which he said is active in the Great Lakes states and the upper Midwest.

He said he came to Benton Harbor to protest racial repression and to give his support to the city's residents.

Most protesters walked in the street instead of the sidewalk, even though the city of Benton Harbor denied their request for a permit that would have allowed them to legally march in the street.

There was no apparent police presence along the route in either city.

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