James Craig Officially Launches Campaign for Michigan Governor After Protests on Belle Isle

​After evading protesters and relocating to a gated building along the Detroit River, the former police chief was able to eventually give a speech and answer questions.

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig formally announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor in Detroit Tuesday after his initial announcement was interrupted by protesters. 

Chanting “James Craig is full of hate, we won’t let him win our state,” protesters took to the podium where Craig was expected to speak. When he eventually arrived, he was flanked by protesters and made a quick announcement before making a hasty retreat to a seventh-floor patio in a gated building a half-mile away along the Detroit River. 

There Craig gave a typical political speech taking aim at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“The damn roads are not fixed,” he said. 

Russ McNamara/WDET
Russ McNamara/WDET

Without offering his own plan to mitigate the spread of the disease, Craig criticized the Biden administration’s policies to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

“Making mandates to get vaccinated. Are we becoming socialists? Communists? What about choice?” he said. 

Craig also called for an end to vaccine mandates for workers and university students.  

He said his message will resonate with voters across the state. “I will resonate with those folks up north on the west. Because I’m authentic. I’m a leader. And I’m blue collar. I know what hard work looks like.”

Craig’s message has resonated with supporters like Ken Matiyow of Waterford. “I think he’s going to do an outstanding job for Michigan. And we need more people like James Craig coming forward and talking about what’s going on in our communities,” Matiyow said. 

“I’ve got a sign here that says proud Republican, ‘we ended slavery 1861-1865’ apparently, a lot of people don’t know that. [Black Lives Matter protesters] seem to think that, hey, we’re a racist party, but our party was founded to eliminate slavery to eradicate it.” 

Craig has leaned heavily on his years as a cop but maintains that it does not define him. 

“I talk a lot about law enforcement because I spent 44 years but I don’t want you to feel like I’m in a little box and that’s all I know what I do know. Leadership works,” he said. 

Craig joins a field of Republican gubernatorial candidates that includes Mattawan anti-lockdown activist Garrett Soldano and conservative commentator Tudor Dixon of Norton Shores

Protesters Disrupt Initial Announcement 

Eli Newman/WDET
Eli Newman/WDET

During his announcement, Craig, who resigned as Detroit’s police chief earlier this year, reiterated unfounded claims about last summer’s marches during his announcement. Detroit saw several months of anti-police brutality protests following the killing of George Floyd. Craig said the movement was orchestrated. 

“I feel like they were paid. I don’t have any hard evidence. But I feel like they were paid,” he said. 

That accusation does not have any factual basis and has been repeated by members of the GOP to discredit last year’s protests.  

Protesters on Tuesday said their efforts to interrupt the announcement were a success. 

“Our voices were heard. We disrupted a right-wing reactionary’s gubernatorial bid in the Blackest city in the nation,” said Lloyd Simpson, an organizer with Detroit Will Breathe, which led many of the city’s demonstrations.  

Russ McNamara/WDET
Russ McNamara/WDET

As police chief, Simpson said Craig drafted policies that targeted African Americans. Fellow Detroit Will Breathe organizer Samantha Phillips said the group is trying to prevent what happened last summer in the city from happening elsewhere in the state. 

“We do not want what happened in Detroit under his leadership to happen in the state of Michigan. We underwent all of that brutality and all of those horrible things because of James Craig,” Phillips said. 

Simpson said Detroit Will Breathe is focusing on accountability in Detroit city government, as politicians turn to voters this election season. He said the group mobilizes around collective action. 

“We will take the streets and our voices will be heard and we’re going to engage with the community,” he said. 

Detroit Will Breathe is named in a federal lawsuit against Craig, the Detroit Police Department and Mayor Mike Duggan. The group claims officers used excessive force to crack down on last summer’s protests, violating their First Amendment rights in the process. The city filed a countersuit, which a federal judge dismissed

Some Detroiters Oppose Campaign 

Some Detroit residents oppose Craig’s bid for office as a Republican. 

“We don’t need people that are dummies, that are puppets,” said Bernice Smith, who is active in local politics. “Why would he risk his reputation? I have no idea, and I feel sorry for him if he continues going on this route.”  

As protesters took to the podium, Smith was upset to hear chants like “[Expletive] James Craig.” 

“I think they have a right to protest, but I don’t approve of them using profanity,” Smith said. “I want them to be respectful in what they’re doing.” 

Outside of the protesters associated with Detroit Will Breathe, Craig’s announcement attracted other detractors. 

“He’s going to turn the clock back if we vote for him,” said Monique Campbell, who works with the independent political action committee Fems for Dems. “Sometimes I think that Republicans just put a Black face up there because they think Black people will vote for him. He’s not good for Black people.” 

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  • Eli Newman
    Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.
  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.