Artist stakes out roof to protest demo of Detroit homes

Aaron Timlin is passionate about keeping some of Detroit's history alive. He set up shop on top of a Detroit home to prevent the city from tearing it down - and it worked.

- In the past few years, more than 10,000 homes in Detroit have been demolished. The decaying structures were not only unlivable, they attracted crime and were huge eyesores. On Tuesday, a Detroit artist took up residence on a roof in hopes of saving one of those homes.

Aaron Timlin found a perch on top of a home at 6183 16th street in Detroit. Armed with only a cell phone, the artist was protesting the demolition of the home that was scheduled for this week.

According to his Facebook page, his protest actually began on Monday when he was sitting on the front porch as bulldozers arrived. Timlin posted multiple statuses since 1 pm Monday that said the city would not be taking the house.

On Tuesday, as bulldozers pulled up to the home, he planted himself on the roof to try and safe the home.

"(There's) no investment in this neighborhood. We talk about investment in downtown, investment in midtown, but no investment right here in the neighborhood," activist Yusef Bunchy Shakur said.

Shakur said if what Timlin had to do brings awareness to the community, he supports the actions. Detroit police, however, disagree.

"This is not the way to deal with this kind of situation," assistant Chief Steve Dolunt said.

The city is at odds with activists in the neighborhood. While the mayor is trying to get rid of blight, others want to rehab the homes instead. On Tuesday, it played out at the home on 16th street in front of neighbors and journalists.

"About 8:30 this morning, demolition crews came out. There's five houses on this block that were going to be demolished. (An) individual across the street is trying to save the homes (and) he climbed out on the roof," Dolunt said.

Eventually he came down and was taken into custody. The 45-year-old was arrested for interfering with a city employee.

"It's a protest, everybody has a right to protest, however when you're endangering other people's lives - and your own - it's a problem," Dolunt said.

Timlin is the Executive Director of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit. He already owns a number of homes in the city and wants to save five in this area as art projects or community centers. His goal is to make them livable again and the city is willing to negotiate. They agreed to try and work something out.

"There's three points to the agreement: One - is that we're not going to do the demo today. Two - it's going to be two week stay on the five houses that they want to try and work out. Three - we're going to take a week to see if there's a viable rehab program we can put together with him," District 5 manager Vince Keenan said.


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