- fixing taillights can make a big difference in avoiding the risk of being pulled over by police.
- various organizations are coming together to offer such minor repairs for free to help people prevent unnecessary police interactions. aside from the lights, the groups are also offering fluid topoffs and tire repairs.
- across the country, some repair shops have adjusted their focus in the wake of covid-19 and the black lives matter movement.
for some drivers, a broken taillight is just a small thing. for others, it could lead to a stressful or even life-and-death situation with police. it is for those others that several groups in ypsilanti, michigan, near ann arbor are starting a series of pull over prevention (pop) clinics to offer free minor automotive repairs. the groups say their work is "an easy way to prevent police interactions" and that it is "prioritizing minorities for this event as a way to mitigate that harm and promote equity."
the first pop clinic will take place on september 26, and the groups—peace house ypsilanti, the huron valley democratic socialists of america, and the mutual aid network (many) of ypsilanti—will not only fix head- and taillights but also replace needed fluids and do minor tire repairs. since the repairs will take place in a park, the groups' capacity to do in-depth work is somewhat limited, and the organizers admit that "some makes and models are too difficult to do within our time frame." aside from the vehicle work, the pop clinics will also offer childcare, snacks, and literature on community resources.
repair volunteers are not requiring or even encouraging donations from those who come get their cars fixed, and the groups announced on facebook that they have raised enough money to support running more of them in the future. dates for these events have not yet been announced.
amanda mayer, many co-director, told car and driver that the group raised roughly $100 for the event, and a small local repair shop called auto value offered the group discounted items and donated supplies as well. many hopes to get more clinics scheduled soon, saying that "many of the volunteers seem up to continuing the battle for racial justice and helping with the clinic as long as possible."
mayer said she has been pulled over in the past over burned-out lights and said it is always a "nerve-racking experience."
"being pulled over is one of the most dangerous experiences for minorities in america," she said, adding: "this act of solidarity is a minor gesture in the larger scheme of standing up against police brutality and systemic racism."
nonprofit garage serves low-income car owners
in minneapolis, a repair shop that was started in 2013 specifically to provide affordable service to low-income car owners was damaged in the chaos following the killing of george floyd by police earlier this year. it reopened just a few days later thanks to over $5000 in donations. called the lift garage, the shop relies on donations and grants to keep costs low for its customers as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and it has a mission that goes beyond just repairing cars. it offers people a "vehicle out of poverty" by not just providing low-cost repairs, but also by connecting customers to community partners and needed resources.
"we recognize that people walking in our door are typically dealing with much more than just car repairs, and we try hard to meet them where they are at," lift garage founder cathy heying told c/d. "we ensure that we always have free hearty snacks in the waiting room [such as] granola bars, ramen noodles, etc., because probably our folks can't afford to go grab lunch at arby's. we were closed for three days during and after the uprisings but worked really hard to open up quickly to resume our service." the shop is so busy now that new appointments have a wait time of three months.
heying has recommendations for people who might want to get things fixed to avoid unwanted traffic stops. "in my experience, hearing from our customers of color, it seems light bulbs, loud exhaust, and items hanging from the rearview mirror, which is illegal in minnesota, are the reason many get pulled over, so for this particular issue i'd help them prioritize those things," she said.
since 2016, when philando castile was killed in minnesota after being pulled over for a broken taillight, the lift garage has been replacing headlight and taillight bulbs for free, unless it's a particularly expensive replacement. in that case, they ask customers to help cover some of the costs. heying said a local program called lights on! offers free light-bulb replacement coupons to local repair shops. police officers can hand these out to people they pull over for broken lights, and a program called microgrants pays for the repair.