Activists rally for more African-American owned Detroit businesses

A group of pastors and activists say one way to keep African-Americans from being mistreated at some businesses is by having more blacks own them.

One example is the Motor City Coney Island on McNichols where an employee shot a customer recently. It is closed now, and they only want to see it reopened with different owners.

"Why would we make other people millionaires bringing our dollars to their business and they live outside our community," said Rev. David Bullock. "And then they treat us like dogs and shoot us down in the street - and continue to demand that we support them."

It is a question many Detroiters have asked for years, and one that a group of pastors and activists say it is time they answered for good - by buying up businesses that routinely disrespect their customers.

"In a black business you can buy something you can't buy in any other business and that's self-respect," Bullock said. "How can we expect Detroit to recover if black people don't have self-respect?"

Dozens of people demonstrated outside the coney island on Six Mile and Oakland where police say 45-year-old Engjull Thaqi of Macomb, shot Eugene Lyons who was milling about behind the restaurant Sunday afternoon.

"It happened to him today but it can be your son, your daughter or you tomorrow," said Rev. W.J. Rideout, All God's People Church.  

Demonstrators say the shooting is symptomatic of a much larger problem.

"Through the years there have been unarmed young black men and women disrespected and violated at coney islands, at liquor stores and gas stations," said Teferi Brent, Men's Christian Fellowship. "This has been going on for 30 years and a lot of these owners have been selling drug paraphernalia, exposing pornographic magazines, selling bad meat and expired goods to our citizens."

"We're at a boiling point, the time is now, we're not taking it," said Negus Vu, The People's Action. "If you are mistreating the customers, we don't care who you are, you have to get shut down."

That's what happened at the Citgo gas station on Six Mile and Southfield where police say Rami Ali Jaber, a clerk, gunned down Derek Roberts after an argument.  He's now facing murder charges and the gas station is closed.

Motor City Coney Island stalled out on four flats - the city closed the restaurant Monday after discovering it's been operating without business license since 2014.

This coalition of activists is working to get black entrepreneurs to buy it and the gas station.

"We don’t want to get shot in businesses in our communities," Bullock said. "We don't want to get shot buying gas in our community and the best way for us to not get shot or not get murdered is for us to own the businesses in our own communities."