Ed Driscoll

Anarchy in Detroit, Then and Now

The more things change in Detroit…

Aboud and his two brothers own and operate a small grocery store, the Tailwind Party Store, on the lower east side, in one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods. Aboud was born in Detroit, in 1956; his parents, Iraqi Christians known as Chaldeans, came to the city from a village not too far from Baghdad.

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Since 1960, roughly one hundred Arab and Chaldean merchants have been murdered in their stores. Six of them were related to John Aboud.

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Aboud’s tolerance has not impaired his vigilance, however, and the Tailwind’s security system could be fairly characterized as forbidding. The front door has a permanent squeak, to let the brothers know when someone comes in. They work behind a thick shield of bullet-resistant glass (Aboud told me that when they come out from behind it, they wear bulletproof vests) and on the shelf behind the counter there was a small arsenal: a .44 Magnum, a 9-millimeter pistol, and a couple of AR 15 semiautomatic assault rifles— tools of the shopkeeper’s trade in Detroit.

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Friday nights are especially busy at the Tailwind, and John Aboud and Mike waited on a steady stream of customers buying bread and lunch meat, beer, soft drinks and other weekend staples. During the week, when things are quieter, they go downstairs into the basement and take target practice in a makeshift pistol range. Their current target was the face of Mike Ditka on a Lite Beer poster. They had nothing against the Chicago Bears coach; the targets change with the posters. “When my brother was eighteen he got his first Magnum,” said John, in a tone that some people use referring to their first bicycle. “Know what he did? He shot out the furnace.” Aboud laughed, a soft, melodic sound.

The basement serves a less sporting purpose, too; it is where the brothers take shoplifters. “We handcuff them to this,” he said, pointing to a metal post.

From Zev Chafets’ 1990 book, Devil’s Night: And Other True Tales of Detroit.

…The more they remain the same, frozen in amber as part of the permanent collapse ushered in by the 20 year rule of the Coleman Young administration. The second of Reason TV’s four-part series this week on “Anarchy in Detroit,” focuses on “Detroit Threat Management, a private security firm that provides cheap car-to-front door escorts to small business owners, security details to large companies, free protection to local neighborhoods plagued by violent crime, and self-defense training to Detroit citizens. Dale Brown, one of the founders, sees their service as essential in a city with a crime rate five times the national average.”

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