GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Officials in Grand Rapids are ending the city's 7 p.m. curfew, despite the city manager's office recommending an extension.
At the city commission meeting on June 2, commissioners voted to extend the state of civil emergency. That allows the commission to quickly make decisions in an emergent situation, including the ability of the mayor to enact a curfew. However, this vote did not change that the curfew had expired.
"I don't think anyone wants to see more destruction in Grand Rapids," said First Ward Commissioner Jon O'Connor. "I think we have to give the community the respect to not put the curfew back in place and trust we will continue to see peace."
At a city commission meeting on Tuesday, June 2, City Manager Mark Washington recommended extending the curfew through June 7 and possibly changing the start time to 8:30 p.m.
"We want to change the systems that contribute to these unjust outcomes, [but] we have to make sure we are not perpetuating violence that further harms the community" Washington said.
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss declared a proclamation of civil emergency on Sunday, May 31, instituting a nighttime curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. for 48 hours. The city received support from the Michigan National Guard to aid with security and property protection.
Police arrested nine people for violating curfew Sunday and 12 people the following day. Many of the Tuesday arrests involved participants of an event downtown, during which people stood face-to-face with the National Guard on Fulton Street to protest the death of George Floyd. Violators faced misdemeanor charges, resulting in up to 90 days in jail and/or up to $500 in fines.
Bliss said it was "clear" the extension would not move forward after a majority of commissioners spoke in opposition. The City Commission will discuss the state of civil emergency at its evening meeting on June 2.
After a peaceful protest Saturday, which drew between 3,000 and 4,500 people, the scene in downtown Grand Rapids turned chaotic. People smashed windows at several businesses and vandalized buildings.
The number one priority has been the safety of the community, said Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne, who advocated for an extension of the curfew.
"Having the National Guard in the city of Grand Rapids was never what I envisioned I would be requesting," said Payne. "Our resources were diminishing, and I still have concern abut the fatigue of officers."
Bringing in more uniformed personnel does not send the message that the city is hearing the community, said First Ward Commissioner Kurt Reppart.
"If people break the law, we can make arrests, but if they are protesting peacefully, I'm not interested in stifling that," Reppart said. "I believe our response should lean towards those who are calling out for change."
There are racial disparities in Grand Rapids that the city has been working to address and must continue to address, Bliss said.
"The question for me is: How do we channel this anger and frustration that exists throughout our community and communities everywhere into real meaningful change and action?" Bliss said. "That is the task before us."
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