16-year-old Stefan Perez helps lead peaceful night of protest in downtown Detroit

On Monday evening a group of protesters went to Michigan Avenue and Third by the Public Safety Headquarters and several people began to leave for the 8 p.m. curfew. But a good number of people stuck around, then organizers urged them to clear the area and they did just that. 

Demonstrations downtown stayed on message. If you think this is just about the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protesters will tell you to think again. 

"This thing hasn't just started, it has been happening," said protester Dwain Mathis. "They have been killing brothers because when I was coming up - I'm 63 - every night you would see the police whipping on a brother and killing us without any consequence. That's the honest to God truth, no exaggeration. This is not something that just started happening, it has been happening."

On Monday a young voice stepped to the forefront of the protest - 16-year-old Stefan Perez - who led, and help end it, peacefully.

"All we wanted to reconcile for ourselves, the people we lost," Perez said. "George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin. There are so many names. I am just glad I'm not a name too."

Perez was lauded for his leadership in helping clear out protesters as they verged on another clash with Detroit police for violating the emergency curfew.

He spoke with Mayor Mike Duggan tonight over the phone after the crowds cleared.

"Stefan I was watching the video and I saw your leadership, I have tears in my eyes," Duggan said. "You are everything that is special about the city of Detroit."

"Thank you I appreciate it," Perez said. "And I appreciate the fast - I'm not going to lie - we had some police officer walk with us in uniform who stand united with us today, and I am glad you do too. I just wanted to make sure everybody got home safe. I'm not going to lie to you now. We are going to hold more marches and protests, but I am going to make sure we are safe. That we end up safe. That I get people home."

And he had some help from community organizers like Pastor Maurice Hardwick from the Live in Peace Movement and Bishop Daryl Harris from Operation Ceasefire. They did not want more clashes with police and the fall out that would come along with it.

More and more Detroiters raised concerns about out of towners possibly working to instigate violence, rioting and looting. Many of those who have been arrested are not from the city.

"What happened is there are a few different groups here and not all of them have the same agenda," said Harris. "So this group over here with Stefan, his group is a good group. But then other groups start mixing in, and then before you know it, they are the ones causing a problem and getting those groups in trouble that were really here on some peaceful stuff.

"We are the ones when that other group goes home and puts their black lives signs up, we are the ones that have to be here and clean everything up. And that is not fair to us. If they really want to help us, then they should be following us."

"It is not about how long you can stay in the fight," Perez said. "It is about how many times you can win. And today was a win because we didn't lose anybody."