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Justice for Black Lives organizer once again arrested for using a megaphone at rally before marching to a City Commission meeting

July 14, 2021

Last night, Justice for Black Lives had organized an action, which included a march to City Hall, with the intent of then speaking during the first in person commission meeting since the pandemic set in last year, primarily to demand the defunding of the GRPD.

About 25 people showed up for the action. This writer was there in the capacity of acting as a police liaison. Danny, an organizer with Justice for Black Lives (JFBL), was using a megaphone, talking about defunding the GRPD and refunding issues like public education and getting lead out of the water in Grand Rapids.

After about 15 minutes of talking and getting people ready to attend the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting, two police cruisers showed up, with three officers stepping out and heading towards those who were there in support of JFBL. As the police liaison, I approached the first cop and began to engage him, when he said, “get the hell out of my way.”

Realizing that the GRPD was there to grab Danny, several people then quickly surrounded Danny in an attempt to prevent the GRPD from grabbing him. One cop grabbed another person around the neck, throwing them to the ground and bloodying their knee. Some people were filming, while others chanted. Some of us were trying to get the names of the cops and their badge number and when we got “too close” to these cops, they yelled at us to step back or be arrested.

Earlier this year, some of the same tactics were used by the GRPD to target and arrest JFBL organizers, particularly Black and Brown organizers.

After the police put Danny in the cop car and drove away, other JFBL organizers decided they would go to the Kent County Jail and begin the process of bonding Danny out. The rest of us decided to continue with the plan to march to City Hall and speak at the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting.

We entered City Hall off of Monroe Avenue, and since we were about 20, we rode up in the elevator in two groups. When we got off the elevator that takes you to the Calder Plaza level, you then have to go around the corner and take another elevator to the 9th floor for the Commission meeting. When we got off at the Calder Plaza level, there was a line of cops there – at least 10 – waiting for us. In all the years of going to City Commission meetings, I have never seen this kind of police presence right when people are getting off the elevator. This was clearly an intimidation tactic that was deployed, to send a message to those who were on their way to attend the City Commission meeting. In addition, it is likely that the GRPD had a contingency plan in place to “deal with” people who might have come to the Commission meeting to disrupt it.

During the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting, there were some 20 people who spoke to the issue of Defunding the GRPD, along with what they had just witnessed at Rosa Parks Circle, with the GRPD abusing activists and arresting a JFBL organizer.

People made numerous points about the necessity of defunding the GRPD and refunding the community. Another issue that came up was the fact that the GRPD had issued a statement last week, just prior to the Proud Boys event planned for Saturday. The GRPD said that they would protect the free speech rights of the Proud Boys, a know White Supremacist group. Yet, when an organizer with Justice for Black Lives speaks, he gets arrested to doing nothing more than exercising his right to speak.

Clearly there is a double standard in the City and clearly the GRPD has decided that anyone who raises the issue of Defunding the GRPD, of questioning GRPD tactics, or hold the GRPD accountable, will be targeted. In short, what we all witnessed tonight was nothing more than political repression.

If you have not already done so, like the Facebook pages of Justice for Black Lives and Defund the GRPD. Get involved, get educated and get engaged. We will not rest until the GRPD is defunded and abolished!

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