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Calls for a State of Emergency in Grand Rapids elicits no meaningful response from City Officials

May 10, 2017

Last night about 40 people gathered outside of city hall for a Prayer Rally for Change. The Micah Center and mothers of the 5 Grand Rapids boys who were held at gunpoint by the GRPD organized the event as a way to respond to the recent examples of oppressive behavior from the police – holding 5 African American boys at gunpoint, the traffic study and the police shooting and killing an African American man.

The who spoke and offered up prayers were from the Black and Latino/a communities and was a moving display of solidarity between the two communities. One of the mothers who’s son was held at gunpoint by the GRPD on March 24, also spoke briefly and expressed disappointment and frustration at the lack of action being taken by city officials.

After the prayer rally, people were invited to attend the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting. The room was full, with only a couple of empty seats when the meeting started. After dealing with items on the agenda, the Public Comment period was opened and dozens of people got up to speak primarily addressing the oppressive incidents and tactics by the GRPD.

Early on, Rev. Jerry Bishop spoke and said that he had invited 100 Black men to a meeting the day before to discuss the level of violence in the community and was calling for a State of Emergency. He invited the men who had met with him the night before to stand up as a demonstration of their solidarity and commitment to the demand for a State of Emergency.

Many of those same African American men got up to speak with common themes. Most of them talked about not feeling safe in the community, specifically not feeling safe when the GRPD was around. Other men fought back tears when talking about how difficult it has been to have conversations with their children about what has been happening in recent weeks and how they fear for their children’s lives.

Members of the Latino/a community also spoke about being harassed by the GRPD and that they came to mostly stand in solidarity with their Black brothers and sisters in the struggle.

Other people addressed issues around the lack of response from City officials on these matters and were “shocked” that the city has taken no concrete action based upon the demands the community has made over the past 6 weeks.

Another speaker addressed the fact that the police department consumes a full third of the City’s budget and that instead of allowing the GRPD to use so much of the taxpayers money, it should instead be diverted to providing job opportunities and to fund many of the youth-based programs that many of the African American men who were in attendance, were involved in.

In the end the Mayor said that they heard people’s concerns and thanked them for speaking. However, no verbal commitment was made by city officials last night, which this writer finds unacceptable. How can you hear community member after community member address such crucial issues and collectively call for a State of Emergency and not make some sort of commitment to take action?

One thing that the Micah Center, LINC, the NAACP=GR and MOBB United is doing is hosting meetings to discuss the 12-point plan the city has been working on since the summer of 2015. The first meeting will be held at LINC on Tuesday, May 23 from 5:30 – 8pm in the LINC Gallery, 1167 Madison Ave. SE in Grand Rapids.

 

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