GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne said that despite the call from protesters to join them, he won’t participate in an unpermitted rally.
A group of about 100 people gathered in downtown Grand Rapids Monday afternoon, one of many nationwide protests that have sprung up following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. GRPD urged people not to join, saying organizers had not been in contact with the department.
“They want to organize, and we can sit down and talk about how that can be done. I’d be the first to lead the pack,” said Payne during a press briefing. “Now, Wednesday, there’s a scheduled rally that’s going on. I’ve had conversation with those organizers; I plan to be there, and I will be a part of that. But this is not organized.”
There is another peaceful rally planned for Wednesday, but this one has new guidelines in place, including a hard end time.
Ahead of the protest, law enforcement set up barricades around the police department on Fulton Street and Monroe Center. Local police were joined by the Michigan National Guard, which was activated by the governor on Sunday to assist Grand Rapids. Michigan State Police and the Kent County Sheriff’s Office are also downtown. The heavy police presence is in response to Saturday night’s riots.
“This is not Grand Rapids, we’re better than this,” said Payne. “I won’t go into details about the strategy that we came up with today for this particular event. What I will say is, come to be as an organization and sit down. Let’s discuss what the intent is, as the group on Wednesday did, and I will be there with you. But this is disorganized. No one is stepping out as a leader.”
The 3 p.m. event started with just a handful of protesters facing off with a line of National Guards members. But as the afternoon proceeded, the crowd grew larger and moved up to the barricade. The group was addressed by Payne who said he hears their concerns and wants to work with them. He also echoed their chants and said “black lives matter.”
Payne also said he doesn’t believe many of the people downtown Monday are from the city of Grand Rapids. Additionally, he believes “the majority of the people causing problems Saturday were not from Grand Rapids either.”
Many of the protesters downtown are holding “black lives matter” signs, and some are just calling for law enforcement to stand in solidarity with them.
“This is 2020. We have to make sure we’re accountable for our actions. We will hold each other accountable. The tragedy that occurred in Minnesota, those officers are being held accountable. So I think we have to make sure we’re doing our part,” said Payne.
Grand Rapids is still under a curfew Monday night, which will go into effect at 7 p.m. Anyone still out at that time will be subject to arrest, a misdemeanor and/or a fine of up to $500. The first night of the curfew, nine people were arrested for violating it. The city plans to reassess Tuesday to determine if it needs to be extended.
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