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8B - The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2004

COMMENTARY

Street fighting man - who needs cops anyway?

No friends in City Hall
ELLIOTT MALLEN IRRAT'IONAL EXUBERANCE

STEVE COTNER MY BACK PAGES

FEBRUARY 19, 2004

JULY 12, 2004

y now it's
obvious, but it
needs to be
said: The members of
the Ann Arbor Police
Department and the
Department of Public
Safety should all be
arrested for imperson-
ating officers. They
drive around in cruisers and wear blue uni-
forms. They stick white envelopes on the
hood of your car. They'll even drag you off
the sidewalk if you're carrying a cup at
night. But when it comes to keeping the
peace - and that is their real title, peace
officers - they're just show-cops: They
show up and then they cop out.
In my years at the University, I've seen
officers harass homeless people, tell a
harmless nonstudent to leave University
property immediately and interrogate a
guy named Silver because he had a
"street" appearance. I've seen them stalk
parties for young drinkers, empty wallets
looking for fake IDs, enter houses unan-
nounced. I've seen the inside of a cop car,
with its computer dashboard and its plastic
partition - I know how many seconds it
takes for a court-date to print from their
machine and how many months it takes to
clear your record.
And I've seen them ruin Ann Arbor
traditions, breaking up block parties
before they even started and ducking the
heads of naked, cuffed runners into cop
cars - police pressure took the Naked
Mile down from 800 participants to a
couple dozen in two years' time. I don't
know what it is, but there is something
about a peaceful student celebration that a
cop just can't stand.
And sadly, those are the good points
because those are the times when the cops
were around, as unwanted as they were. At
other times, like the frat brawl earlier this

week, students have called officers for
help and found that no one really cares.
They've discovered that the one time we
do want to see a cop, the cops don't want
to see us.
The past week's happenings weren't just
a fluke. AAPD Sgt. Tom Seyfried's state-
ment that the fight was "childish non-
sense" wasn't just one man shooting his
mouth off. It is part of a policy to ignore
students' pleas for help, to regard serious
callers as tattlers with no backbone. Noise
complaints, drinkers under 21 - those
call for immediate action. But a fight? It
will blow over.
I had a run-in like this in the early fall
when my house had an open-house party.
Some wrestlers from down the street had
stolen food from our pantry, and when one
of my friends confronted them, five or six
guys dragged him into the driveway,
punching and kicking him. They all split,
but the biggest of them returned a few
minutes later with a friend, and then the
fight really started. The big guy could take
on anybody. He had been kicked off the
team, so he didn't need to stay below any
weight class. He head-butted. Honestly,
who head-butts? A Native American
neighbor - a nonviolent type who owns
his grandfather's peace pipe - asked,
"What are you guys fighting about?" and
was thrown onto a car's hood, his nose bro-
ken and bloodied. A few black neighbors
came to our back and were promptly
greeted by a word the wrestler must have
learned from his parents. More punches,
biting, etc. It went on like this forever.
After forever, there were hospital visits. It
was, in general, not a good night.
Somewhere along the line, the girls next
door called the cops, but they only showed
up after it was done. A cop car had been
stalking the house all night during the
party, prowling for MIPs. At times, two or
three were parked on the street. But during

the fight they were in stealth mode, lest
anyone know they exist.
The cops said they couldn't bring
charges unless we gave them names, and
when we gave them names, they gave
some other excuse. Later, a cop at the hos-
pital had to ask for the whole story again
and again - the earlier cops hadn't told
him anything. Eventually, a report was
filed, but nothing came of it.
Of course, it's not manly to rely on
cops when you should be able to bust
someone's head yourself. That is the ethos
that prevails among students at 3 a.m. But
strangely, it's the police's attitude too. I
don't like the idea of police keeping
everything under lockdown - in fact I
don't like police at all. But if they only
did one thing, shouldn't it be to solve vio-
lent conflicts? Michigan students com-
prise a transient urban population with
hardly any social bonds. On top of that,
there are people like the wrestler who are
mentally deficient, inherently violent and
here on scholarship - it only takes one
scholarship revocation to make Friday
night turn ugly.
Ultimately, this is more than just a criti-
cism of the police. It's about all the
enabling parties who keep assholes around
at this university. I admit, sometimes I
have the romantic notion of violence
against institutions in order to save the
individual. It's a fairly harmless idea, much
more artistic and literary than it is practi-
cal. But there are certain types - the frat
brawlers, the drunken wrestlers - who
use our institutions as cover for violence
against individuals. If the police don't
want to stop them, then they shouldn't fake
it. People ought to understand that they're
on their own.
Cotner can be reached at
cotners@umich.edu.

nn Arbor
C i t y
Council.
A harmless little
enclave that deals
with harmless lit-
tle issues. Why
should we, as stu-
dents with busy
schedules and no
intentions of staying here after grad-
uating, care one damn about what
they do? We have no interest in heat-
ed debates about when garbage pick-
up day ought to be. Few among us
have fiery opinions about the Machi-
avellian maneuverings of the City
Joint Caucus (aside from the obvious
jokes its name provokes). I'd venture
to guess that most students here
don't even know who our mayor is,
let alone how to pronounce his name.
Local government is for the aged, the
feeble, the trivial and the dull. The
sad fact is, City Council members
take advantage of this student apathy
by passing legislation that negatively
affects students without fear of
reprisal. The recent proposal banning
porch couches is one example of
how the Ann Arbor City Council
pushes an anti-student agenda with
relative impunity.
The voting districts of Ann Arbor
are gerrymandered to ensure that stu-
dents will never get a seat on the
City Council. The city is split into
pie-shaped wedges, with each con-
taining a sliver of the student-domi-
nated downtown and a much larger
chunk of the surrounding homeown-
er strongholds. Each wedge elects a
City Council member, meaning stu-
dents never have enough numbers in
any individual wedge to field a pro-
student candidate. A homeowner's

most valuable asset is his home, and
he will fight anything that could
potentially lower the value of that
asset (like living close to rowdy,
unkempt students). Members of the
Council all favor the more perma-
nent homeowners over transient stu-
dents, leading to legislation like the
ludicrous couch porch ban.
The idea that students can't even
get their own City Council member
suggests that they are but a small
minority, and this simply is not true.
Of Ann Arbor's 114,024 citizens,
39,031 are students. Renters outnum-
ber homeowners 55 percent to 45
percent, putting homeowners in the
minority. The college feel of Ann
Arbor is further reflected in the fact
that the 45 percent home ownership
rate is significantly lower than the
Michigan average of 74 percent. The
relatively small number of property
owners in the city makes their domi-
nation of the Council all the more
absurd. There's no doubt that Ann
Arbor would not be nearly as pros-
perous if it weren't for the Universi-
ty. Without students, there would be
no South University. There would be
no football games drawing tens of
thousands of fans into the city in the
fall. Sprawl would surely have taken
a much greater toll if there weren't
thousands of students living and
spending money in the city center.
Property owners would have you
believe that students are a blight on
an otherwise pure city. In reality,
we're a blight that's holding this town
together.
The students versus homeowners
divide is not the expected Democrat
versus Republican battle we've come
to expect between the young and the
old. The very people who want to

ruin what little pleasant Michigan
weather we get in the summer by
taking away our porch furniture are
the same people who most likely
have a "Jobs Not War in 2004" sign
in their immaculately manicured
lawns. They'll gladly vote for Kerry,
march in one of the more main-
stream peace rallies and support
striking Borders workers. Just don't
ask them to sit idly while their stu-
dent neighbors enjoy their uphol-
stered furniture outside, potentially
driving their property values down
for living in close vicinity to such
riff-raff. Any sense of camaraderie
between students and homeowners
that comes from shared liberal values
is overridden as soon as property val-
ues come into play.
Seeing as students lack the power
to vote City Council members out of
office, more creative methods are
required if students are to defeat the
proposed ban. One person I talked to
suggested we camp out on couches
outside the next City Council meet-
ing on July 19. Others have suggest-
ed burning these couches on the
steps of City Hall - East Lansing
riot-style. One jittery, shifty-eyed
man I spoke with at the Fleetwood
fervently suggested we burn the City
Council members themselves. What-
ever students decide to do in
response to the proposed ban could
be prevented if students had the abil-
ity to vent their frustration with the
homeowners' associations through
voting. Until that day comes, stu-
dents have no choice but to find
other ways to vent.
Mallen can be reached at
emmallen@umich.edu.

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