Part of Executive Order 1968-1, issued by Governor George Romney in conjunction with a proclamation of emergency.
On April 5, 1968 Governor George Romney declared a state of emergency in Wayne County. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated the day before, and many American cities were experiencing violence. Detroit had seen a civil disturbance the previous summer, and Romney feared another such occurrence.
Romney’s Executive Order 1968-1 included these edicts for the affected area:
1. A curfew would be imposed from 8:00 pm until 5:00 am. People were expected to be off the streets during those hours.
2.The possession or sale of firearms and inflammables was prohibited.
3.The sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited.
4.All places of amusement were closed.
5.All meetings or assemblies of more than five persons were prohibited, unless the director of the Michigan State Police granted permission for the assembly.
Dr. Martin Luther King participated in the Detroit Freedom Walk, a peaceful demonstration in Detroit, in 1963.
The Archives of Michigan has a State Police Second District Captain’s log that shows the minute by minute reports from April 4 through April 11 of 1968. The Police were on full alert. All vacations were cancelled and all officers placed on twelve hour shifts. There were many demonstrations and other expressions of anger, such as broken windows and shots at police officers. Overall, however, the civil disturbances were kept under control.
The log also shows many people calling in about the limitations on assemblies. Many religious leaders had planned peaceful marches and memorial services for Dr. King. In general, the services were permitted inside churches and other gathering places, but the marches were not. A few marches were allowed to continue for a couple of city blocks before they were dispersed. Many planned gatherings, such as weddings, were disrupted. Others were permitted, provided that the participants went home by 8 PM.
Emergency Period Ends
A large scale disturbance feared by officials did not materialize in Michigan. It is difficult to say if the emergency proclamation prevented that disturbance or not.
On April 11, 1968 Governor Romney proclaimed that the state of emergency no longer existed and all civil liberties were restored.
Governor’s Decision Room
The Governor’s Decision Room, located at the Michigan Historical Center, helps students experience the inner workings of state government and learn decision-making skills. The first available learning module will focus on circumstances in Detroit, as faced by Governor George Romney in summer, 1967. Future modules will be developed based on the PBB crisis of the 1970s and the Sit-Down Strike of 1936-1937 in Flint. Click Governor’s Decision Room to learn more.
The ribbon cutting of the Governor’s Decision Room, Feb. 28, 2013. From left to right: Patricia Clark, Director of Michigan History Foundation; former Senator Joe Schwarz, Chair of Michigan History Foundation; Governor Rick Synder; Bill Moritz, Deputy Director of DNR and Sandra Clark, Director of the Michigan Historical Center.