Ron Scott, Detroit activist, dies at 68

Robin Erb and Katrease Stafford, Detroit Free Press5:16 p.m. EST November 30, 2015

Until the day he died, Ron Scott remained on the front lines, ready to fight for the causes he fiercely believed in.

Scott, a longtime community activist and the most public face of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, dedicated his life to civil rights issues and worked up to the minute he took his last breath, his family said.

Scott, 68, died Sunday at Beaumont Hospital's Royal Oak location, according to spokesman Sean Spicer. He had battled cancer prior to his death, according to various media reports.

A cousin, Michele Loveberry, said Scott was always on the front lines willing to make the community better through his organization, Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality.

"Ron was always talking about the community, even when he was in the hospital," Loveberry said.  "Even on his deathbed, Ron was making calls. He was working in that hospital room. He took one last phone call, and after that, he died. Ron worked up until his very last breath. That was his entire life. From the time he woke up to the time he went to bed at night. That's all he thought about, making Detroit a better place and a safer city."

An original founder of the Detroit chapter of the Black Panthers, the Detroit native was the unflinching citizen critic of use of force involving Detroit police officers but also of other violence throughout the city. Scott was never married or had any children, but instead dedicated his life to a cause he fiercely believed in, Loveberry said.

He liked to see himself as a "transformational anthropologist” working to change human and social behavior toward peace and reconciliation, according to a short biography he posted on his website.

When Andrea Clark’s son was shot and killed by a security officer in 2011, she called on Scott because she wanted answers. She found not only an ally, but a personal friend and mentor. In the coming years, after she founded the Metro Detroit Area Mothers of Murdered Children, he would call her from time to time after recruiting sponsors for the group’s annual “Never Forgotten” Christmas program.

Those sponsors donate toys and funds at Christmas to help families who have lost a parent or sibling to violence, Clark said.

“He is a legend. His legacy — just wow,” she said. “I told him earlier this summer (that) he needed to write his biography.  He said ‘I’ve tried, but I just don’t have time.’”

Scott led the work at the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality as a proponent of a federal consent decree the U.S. Department of Justice forced on the city in 2003. The order averted a protracted lawsuit over the mistreatment of prisoners in city lockups, illegal arrests of potential homicide witnesses and a disturbing number of fatal shootings of civilians by police.

The reforms finally wrapped up last year, even as Scott argued that reforms hadn’t gone far enough.

"It was a pleasure working with Ron," Loveberry said, adding that she worked alongside him at the coalition for five years. "Just to see the work Ron got accomplished, and some of the people he's helped and the families. Detroit, we don't have the other problems that other cities have and I would like to say that Ron would have had a lot a lot to do with that. He set the guideline for that."

Throughout that work, he remained a community voice in fatalities involving police, including the death during a police raid in 2010 of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones.

"Ron was a fierce and dedicated advocate for those who were victims of police misconduct, and worked tirelessly to make our community a place that was informed and aware of the resources available to them," said Roland Lawrence, chairman, Justice for Aiyana Jones Community."His absence will leave a huge void in the fight to exact social justice for those who suffer injustice by rogue police officers."

Tawanna Simpson, a friend and member of the Detroit school board, called him a “patriarch in our community.”

“He never strayed from his teachings and what he believed in the (Black) Panthers,” she said. “He stood up for people and mainly those who had no means to help (themselves).”

Most recently, Scott had advocated for “Peace Zones for Life” through the coalition, saying that divisions and fights within neighborhoods allowed violence at the hands of the police.

Loveberry saw Scott work firsthand on his new Peace Zones project when he went into a neighborhood near Van Dyke and Forest Avenue to tackle violent crime that had become deeply rooted in the community.

"Ron literally took areas that were war zones where people were fighting, there were drugs, gangs and everything," Loveberry said. "He went in there, talked to gang leaders. Van Dyke and Forest, that was really infested with gangs and drugs. It just so happened that Ron happened to be there when two gangs were about to fight and Ron went in between them. I couldn't believe it. Within a week's time, he had those guys out cleaning. He did that throughout the city and that's the legacy we're going to keep going."

Detroit police Chief James Craig released a short statement through city spokesman Dan Austin, saying he was “shocked and saddened” by the news of his death: “I had tremendous respect for him and the principles he fought for…His memory and his mission will live on.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan also released a statement saying Scott will be missed.

"Ron Scott dedicated his life to the fight for civil rights and the pursuit of justice," Duggan said. "While Ron may be gone, his legacy and work must continue."

Funeral arrangements for Scott have yet to be announced, but Loveberry said an announcement will be made soon. Loveberry said the coalition plans to push forward and continue Scott's work.

"We as a coalition, will continue on," Loveberry said. "His work is going to continue. I personally am going to make sure of that. We have to keep his legacy going because he dedicated his life to it."

Scott's family issued a statement Monday afternoon stating their gratefulness for the outpouring of love and support from the Detroit community and beyond. Dozens of tributes have been posted across social media, mourning Scott's death and remembering his legacy.

"Ron was our brother, and we all benefited from his wisdom and love as the elder member of the family; but we also know and understand that he belonged to the community as well," his family said. "The tributes that we have already seen have helped to assuage our sadness at this tremendous loss. We thank the community for loving our brother. He was important to all of us."

Contact Katrease Stafford: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 313-223-4759. Follow her on Twitter @KatreaseS_Freep.