Grand Rapids Police Chief kneels and sings with protesters
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A crowd of protesters gathered in downtown Grand Rapids on Wednesday afternoon.
Carrying signs and sitting on the sidewalk, several people attended the planned and authorized protest, one of several protests in Grand Rapids since Saturday.
Alexis Polega and Danielle Stover were among hundreds of protesters lined up along Fulton Street.
“I just think everyone here is looking for total reform of the system,” said Stover, a 20-year-old student at Grand Valley State University. “They need laws passed so that innocent people are not killed.”
Stover was holding a sign saying “always here + always angry” with many other protesters.
The protest near the Grand Rapids Police Department comes nine days after a white Minneapolis policeman knelt on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, before his death on May 25. by the death of Floyd.
UPDATE: 4:55 p.m. Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne joined the protesters
The demonstration started at 4 p.m. When Payne joined the crowd at 4:55 p.m., he addressed the crowd briefly and knelt down and chanted with them “I can’t breathe,” which Floyd repeated several times before passing out. .
“I will meet with all who stand up for the peace and move forward,” Payne told the crowd of the solutions.
“We have to work together on this. I can’t do it alone. I need everyone here to work with me.
Payne said he held his officers accountable and supported them.
Payne said earlier this week that he was planning to show solidarity with the protesters, in part because the organizers of the “Justice for Black Lives Silent Sit-in Protest” had contacted the police in advance.
The protesters are a mix of races and ages.
All four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest have been fired. On Wednesday, June 3, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced he was strengthening the charges against former officer Derek Chauvin, who had knelt on Floyd’s neck, to include second degree murder and was charging the three other officers of aiding and abetting murder. For more than a week, protesters across the country demanded that the four be charged.
Wednesday’s protest in Grand Rapids comes four days after a riot broke out in downtown Grand Rapids, following a peaceful protest. After the Saturday night riot, Grand Rapids instituted a city-wide curfew from 7 p.m. Sunday and Monday.
The curfew expired at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, but the state of civil emergency imposed on Sunday was extended until June 16.
Some 2,000 people said they would join the protest on Wednesday, according to an organizing Facebook page, but authorities have not released a crowd estimate.
Organizers of the sit-in called on people to form a single line, on both sides of Fulton Street, starting at Fulton Street behind the Grand Rapids Police Department and extending outward.
The organizers wanted the protest to be silent, with everyone having a sign saying, “I’m still here. I’m still pissed off. “
“We are not going to stop,” Raphaela Varella, 22, a Lansing resident and a student at Kalamazoo College, said of the protests. “It’s a problem, it’s a pandemic, and we’re ready for treatment.”
A protest on Monday June 1 ended with a handful of arrests of protesters who refused to leave the area after a 7 p.m. curfew. The group did not have a permit.
On Saturday, a large group of people gathered on both sides of the Grand Rapids police station and police barricaded themselves inside.
After dark, several people started smashing the windows of downtown stores, state and county buildings, and looting places.
Business leaders subsequently estimated that up to 100 companies were affected by the damage. Almost every store in the Monroe Center had broken windows.
Town commissioners on Tuesday (June 2) refused to maintain the curfew last Monday, with some saying they trust the police to stop those causing the destruction and trust other members of the community to demonstrate peacefully.
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