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Protest in Grand Rapids focuses on the police lynching of Daunte Wright, GRPD again threatens people for not being obedient

April 17, 2021

Yesterday, I attended the Justice for Black Lives rally/march centered around the police lynching of Daunte Wright. 

A brief Media Release stated in part:

Protestors are demanding that justice be served, and that control of the police be given to the communities they claim to serve. The movement for Black liberation will not stand by and allow the police to murder people with impunity. If there is no justice, there will be no peace.

The event featured several speakers, some with Justice for Black Lives, as well as other people representing other organizations in the area. The organizers also offered an open mic opportunity for anyone to speak. One of the organizers with Justice for Black Lives, who had been arrested twice in the past month by the GRPD and was banned from being at Rosa Parks Circle, spoke via his phone and amplified with a bullhorn. His comments seemed to get people fired up and then all of a sudden this person started speaking loudly, because he was actually standing just north of Rosa Parks Circle. The crowd shifted from focusing on the stage at Rosa Parks Circle and had now moved in the direction that the “surprise” speaker who had been banned was talking. His appearance further energized the crowd, with a clear act of defiance. 

After the speakers there was a 23 second moment of silence followed by a march that began at Rosa Parks Circle going east on Breonna Taylor Way, then west on Fulton, across the blue bridge, past the public museum, east on Pearl St and back to Rosa Parks Circle. 

The march was mostly on the sidewalk, until it got to Pearl Street, where most of the roughly 150 people walked in the street. Within a minute, the GRPD showed up in cruisers demanding that those marching in the street get off the road and back on the sidewalk, with maybe half of the marchers complying.

It is a strange world we live in where cops try to dictate how people protest during a march that was calling out cops who murder Black people. 

When the march got back to Rosa Parks Circle, there was a confrontation with a guy who came with a Blue Lives Matter flag. There was lots of yelling, by the white guy with the Blue Lives Matter flag and several of those who came to the protest yelled right back. 

There was local news coverage from MLive, WZZM 13 and WXMI 17, all with the typical protest coverage. Some of the news stories included the usual, “it was a peaceful protest” language, which is code for the protestors didn’t do anything to disrupt business as usual. 

What was instructive about the news coverage is that both WZZM 13 and the MLive story did acknowledge that Justice for Black Lives did get a permit for this action, even though that information was never posted on the Facebook event page. I get that people are frustrated with the GRPD harassment and targeting of some of the organizers, but in the end what is to be gained by obtaining a permit, especially since it puts provides the GRPD with more justification to harass and intimidate protesters that refuse to get a permit for future actions.

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