Mourning in Protest: Spontaneous Memorials and the Sacralization of Public Space

  • Harriet F. Senie


When Malice Green, an unemployed African American former steel worker, was beaten to death by two white Detroit police officers early in November of 1992, a spontaneous memorial was created on the spot. It consisted of “written messages, flowers, candles, shells, bibles and other objects associated with veneration in African and Christian traditions.”1 The site was framed by crosses with messages addressing Green’s perceived martyrdom. A mural was painted on a nearby wall some five days after his death,2 and soon afterward a mirror was placed so that visitors could see themselves and Green at once (or as one). As the memorial became a destination for motorists as well as local residents, a space was demarcated by two orange traffic cones, providing a place to view the now sacralized site of Green’s death.


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© Jack Santino 2006

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  • Harriet F. Senie

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