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Defund the GRPD campaign makes clear demands on the City of Grand Rapids during Press Conference

June 26, 2020

Last night, a coalition of groups working on defunding the GRPD, held a Press Conference in front of City Hall. The coalition consists of the following groups Together We Are Safe, the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network, The People’s Budget GR, Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE. Also involved here several Black organizers who have been instrumental in many of the recent marches and protests centered around police violence against the Black community. 

Five different people spoke during the Press Conference. Danah Montgomery began the Press Conference and provided numerous examples of how the GRPD has terrorized Black residents of Grand Rapids, making the point that this kind of violence doesn’t just happen in other cities.

Another speaker, Samantha Przybylski, spoke about their own lived experience with the GRPD, having been stopped and harassed by them on several occasions in recent years. In addition to each presenter’s own personal experience with the GRPD, the speakers presented a list of clear demands from the Defund the GRPD coalition.

  1. The GRPD has a long history of intimidation, harassment and violence against the Black community in Grand Rapids. Those of us who are part of this coalition have experienced this harm and have heard from countless others who have been victimized by the GRPD. There have been numerous efforts to reform the GRPD, but we know it is now time to DeFund the GRPD.
  2. We are demanding that the City of Grand Rapids hold an emergency meeting by June 30 to adopt a Defunding the GRPD position, wherein the police budget will be reduced to the 32% City Charter mandated level for the upcoming fiscal year.
  3. We are also demanding that the money from this budget cut should be refunded to the Black community and the Black community should have complete control over how this money will be used.
  4. DeFunding the GRPD and Refunding Black Communities must happen if there is to be any trust built with the Black community.  It is one of the few things that will work to actively promote equity in the Black community, which is so desperately needed.
  5. The DeFund the GRPD Campaign Coalition believes that there are better ways to practice community safety and that Grand Rapids needs to begin the process of having deep conversation about how to practice community safety that does not rely on policing.

Therefore the city must draft a plan by July 31 to have open conversations with and among several sectors of the Black community, including Black women, Black trans women and other Black queer and trans folks, disabled Black folks with a disability justice framework, Black folks who are currently or formerly incarcerated, and others that are most affected by and vulnerable to the violence of policing.

Local news Coverage of the Press Conference

There were several local news agencies that came to the Defund the GRPD Press Conference, including MLive, WZZM 13 and WOODTV8. The MLive article presented comments from a few of the speakers, but chose to focus their story on Demand #2, cutting the GRPD budget down to the 32% City Charter requirement. The MLive reporter did reference a comment from Police Chief Eric Payne, primarily as a means to elicit a response from those who spoke at the Press Conference.

The WZZM 13 story also focused a great deal on the City’s budget deadline, but also addressed four of the five demands presented by the coalition. The channel 13 story ended with the reporter addressing the need for the City to have a July 31st plan in place to have a serious conversation with the Black community on the future of policing.

The WOODTV8 story was the most problematic of the three local news stories. The reporter begins by saying that time is running out on defunding the GRPD, which is not really true. Yes, there is an urgency surrounding the City’s budget deadline, but even if the City does not make a decision before June 30th, the Defund the GRPD coalition can still pressure City officials to reduce funding for the police department. However, the most problematic aspect of this story was the fact that they used 20 seconds of time to the Grand Rapids police union, using footage of the press conference that group held last week, along with parts of a statement that was presented.

Lastly, the channel 8 reporter said that the Grand Rapids police union was sticking with the statement they made last week, which means WOODTV8 reached out to the police union and did they story live from in front of the GRPD headquarters. The reason why this is so problematic is that rarely do local news groups solicit responses from the community when the GRPD or the police union holds a press conference or releases a statement. It was also problematic to end the channel 8 story in front of the GRPD headquarters and citing the police union, which essentially undermines and minimizes the voices of those who spoke at the Defund the GRPD Press Conference.



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