GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A march in Grand Rapids to protest police brutality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis was expected to bring thousands to Rosa Parks Circle Saturday evening.
Protests like these have popped up across the country, and some have become violent. But the organizers of the Grand Rapids march are saying that their march is not violent.
"It's important to us because we want to keep the peace. Violence is not necessary at all," said Asja Saintard, a community member who helped organize the event.
These demonstrations are happening nationwide in the wake of Floyd's death after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck Monday, May 25.
"Enough is enough. And we're making that point all around America right now, it's our job, it's our job right now to protest," said Meisha Perry, another organizer of the protest. "And it's our turn in Grand Rapids to make a difference. It's your job to do this too Michigan."
Perry and Saintard said they put together the event on Facebook Thursday morning. By the Saturday afternoon, more than 11,000 people said they were interested or attending.
"I’m fighting for my black people. I’m tired of them getting murdered. I’m tired of living in fear of law enforcement and my neighbors. We have to stand up. We can’t be divided anymore. Once we show that we are gonna stand together and unite, can’t nobody stop us," said Perry.
Saintard echoed that saying, "Plus it begins with us. If it’s going to start somewhere, it has to start with us."
Both the women emphasized that Saturday's march will be non-violent because their focus is unity. Protests in Minneapolis, Louisville and several other cities have become violent.
Saintard and Perry said they stand with those protesters, but their event is focused on sending a different message.
"We stand with them. But today we're going to show them that it can be united and we can be peaceful," said Perry.
Saturday's march wasn't just about Floyd's death, but also Ahmaud Arbery who was shot and killed in Georgia and Breonna Taylor, a Grand Rapids native who was allegedly shot by police in Louisville.
Perry had Taylor's name on the back of her t-shirt.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne said Saturday morning that he has been in contact with the organizers of the protest.
"We fully support people expressing their first amendment rights. We will, as with other events, have a police presence. But that's merely what our desire is that it is just a police presence to keep everyone safe. There's potential counter protests so we're always on guard for that. We've been assured it's going to be a peaceful event, and I believe the Grand Rapids community will step up and be able to go out and have their first amendment rights heard, and it'll be peaceful," he said.
Similar protests were held in Kalamazoo and Holland Saturday.
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