Marc Peeples is a devoted, lifelong Detroiter. He is also Black. And in the summer of 2017, three white women, who were not Detroiters, falsely accused Peeples of a multitude of crimes that he didn’t commit.
He was arrested, charged and even went to trial based on the lies of gentrifiers. Unlike other Blacks who have had the police called on them for no reason, Marc Peeples clapped back.
In a time where younger Blacks have left the city to pursue their dreams in other places, Peeples came back to the neighborhood where he grew up, after serving three years in prison, to bring a ray of hope back to the place he loved. He created a community garden, which gives his neighbors better access to fresh, healthy food in the midst of a food desert. He also taught the children in the neighborhood the value of urban horticulture.
Marc Peeples had even began to board up windows on abandoned houses in Hunt Park near the State Fairgrounds. He painted trees in the colors of the Pan-African flag- which the trio referred to as “gang colors”.
The more improvements his urban garden brought his neighborhood, the more bogus calls the Detroit Police Department received from Deborah Nash, Martha Callahan and Callahan’s granddaughter, Jennifer Morris.
These three women, for almost two years, outright lied about Peeples’ behavior in the area. They claimed that he repeatedly threatened to burn down their homes and he also demanded that they leave the area because they were white.
Nash, Callahan and Morris accused him of illegally painting trees and vandalizing houses. At one point, they told police that Peeples had stolen from homes near the park. And, in the most serious allegation, one of the them falsely accused him of sexual misconduct.
Even though there was no evidence of any of the claims, Marc Peeples was charged with three counts of stalking. All based on the words of three women who took up space in a neighborhood they didn’t care to learn anything about, yet created havoc while there.
The Detroit Police Department was seemingly complicit in allowing the troublemakers to waste their time. The women claimed Peeples had a gun in the neighborhood and when they arrived, he was raking leaves.
He was also accused of being a pedophile, and arrested in front of the children he mentored. No charges were filed, but the cops kept coming.
This situation is reminiscent of the circumstances surrounding the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955, and most recently, a 2018 incident where a little boy in the bodega in New York was accused by a white woman of groping her as he passed. Also, many other instances where the untruthful words of white women were taken over innocent Black men and boys.
Fortunately, this situation didn’t cost Marc Peeples his life. It could have.
Peeples’ attorney, Robert Burton-Harris, commented: “At the heart of this case is a kind of inseparable mix of race and power. The women had their own plans for the park, which fed their hostility. They knew they could use the police as their own personal henchman to get him removed from this area just based on their allegations.”
At Peeples’ trial, District Judge E. Lynise Bryant was appalled and threw the charges out at the trial, calling them “fabricated” and “rooted in racism.”
The judge even found evidence where one of the women had hired him to do work for her after she had him arrested.
“This is disgusting and a waste of the court’s time and resources,” Bryant said.
“These ladies testified they made the initial contact with him, not the other way around,” she said in an interview. “They testified that they called the police and the parks and recreation department and they followed him to the bus stop and said he was in a gang and had a gun. That is the definition of harassment.”
“From the bottom of my heart, I believe race was a motivating factor and an injustice has been done to this man,” Bryant said.
The only woman who was willing to talk on camera denied being a racist.
“I am not a racist. I was all for the garden and even helped with supplies at first, but he threatened me several times, in person to my face, that I needed to leave my neighborhood or I would be put out one way or another,” said Ms. Nash, 49, a part-time art teacher who moved to the neighborhood in 2014.
“I called the police because he was destroying property in the neighborhood and painting graffiti. No one had the right to paint park trees.”
Bryant did not allow any of the women to present evidence. Although, Marc Peeples was eventually vindicated. The liars were never punished by prosecutors nor the police.
However, Peeples wasn’t going to let them get away with practically ruining his life.
“I wanted to hold people accountable. I was locked up, I had to face trial, and I had to put my life back together.”
He is now seeking $300,000 in damages, in addition to attorney’s fees and other costs.