Hundreds of Detroit area residents crowded the Historic Little Rock Baptist Church Thursday to say “no more” to the type of violence that nearly ended the life of a Clinton Township man on April 2 when he stopped to help a 10-year-old who had run into traffic and was accidentally struck by his truck.
A diverse crowd of young and old, black and white, came to their feet when the family of the victim of the vicious attack, Steven Utash, 54, walked hand-in-hand with Deborah Hughes, the retired nurse who is credited with saving his life after intervening and convincing the mob to back away, the Detroit Free Press said.
The non-denominational prayer vigil – a “night of healing” organized by a coalition of Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and Baptist religious leaders and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan – was held on the same day the attack on Utash fficially became a hate crime.
Five people have been arrested and one of them, a juvenile, faces charges under Michigan’s ethnic intimidation statute. The juvenile, who like the other suspects is black, reportedly told investigators he joined in because Utash is white, WJBK, Channel 2, said.
Speakers at the vigil asked for unity against a common enemy: evil. They also urged peace and calm as summer months approach.
“The perpetrators of the evil, you will not win,” Bishop Edgar Vann of the Second Ebenezer Church in Detroit, said “Good is going to outweigh evil. There’s power in coming together. There is power in faith. Now is the time, this is the place, our city is on the rise. We have no room for violence. We have no room for hatred or evil. The foolishness has to stop and the city is still on the rise.”
“We are not here to celebrate evil … why would we celebrate brutal mob attacks on individuals who are innocent? Thank God in the midst of evil that we still have good Samaritans. People willing to love in the midst of evil,” added Bishop Charles Ellis of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit.
The Rev. Jim Holley, pastor of Little Rock, said the violent actions of a few should not a cast a “cloud of negativity” over the city, and said the actions of the 12 or so men responsible for the attack on Utash cannot be tolerated.
Perhaps the loudest applause of the night came when the Rev. Wendell Anthony, the leader of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, called on residents of the city to put “neighbor back in neighborhood,” WJBK said
“I don’t live in the ‘hood,” he reportedly said. “I live in the neighborhood.”
Duggan said he’s not sure how long he will be mayor, but “no matter how long I am here, I could not have a more special day than when I go with you and your family to talk to your father,” he said, directing his remarks to the three children of Utash, who sat in the front front of the church on Woodward Avenue, just a few blocks from the site of the attack.
Besides Duggan, other dignitaries who attended the vigil included U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit), members of the Detroit City Council and members of Detroit 300 Community Patrol, a group of civilian volunteers who police the city.
Utash remains in a medically induced coma and doctors aren’t sure if he will make a full recovery. Utash, a tree trimmer, lacks medical insurance, and an online fundraiser, established a week ago Friday, has now raised $158,573through 3,947 donations. He could be hospitalized for six months, his children said.Click here to make a donation. >>>