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Managing Public Dissent: Grand Rapids City Officials continue to practice a Managerial form of racism on display during the City Commission meeting

April 13, 2022

(Editor’s note: As a matter of transparency, I was asked to be part of the Crowd Safety team for the protest march last night.)

Last night, some 300 people gathered near the Rosa Parks statue in downtown Grand Rapids to get ready to march against the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya, which took place a week ago Monday.

March organizers taught people some chants, as there were likely people who had not previously been part of the GRPD protests that have taken place over the past two years. People were also provided with some ground rules for the march, since you can’t predict how the Grand Rapids Police Department will respond to un-permitted marches.

As we have learned in recent years, the GRPD will selectively enforce the law or ordinances, when they want to. Considering that people are really pissed off about a GRPD cop shooting Patrick Lyoya in the back of the head, they chose to allow an un-permitted march in the streets of downtown Grand Rapids. Organizers were also using a megaphone, which at times has led to people being arrested, since the GRPD claims megaphones violate city noise ordinances.

Earlier in the day, the City decided to barricade the north and south entrances to the Grand Rapids Police Department building, which certainly acknowledges that they were preparing for a potentially escalated action. However, while the march did stop in front of the main entrance to the police department building, there was no indication that the march would do anything other than make noise outside.

The march then swung around GRPD building, going west on Fulton and then weaving its way back to Monroe, stop on the street in front of City Hall. Again, march organizers spent about 15 minutes in the street in front of City Hall, with more speeches and chants. 

Eventually people were invited to walk up to the Calder Plaza area, and then into the City building to participate in the commission meeting. However, at least half of the crowd stayed down on Calder Plaza, since the Commission chambers were apparently already “at capacity.” 

Now, let’s think about this for a moment. Grand Rapids City Officials knew that there would be a huge turnout for the Commission meeting. City Officials knew that people were disgusted and enraged over the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya. They knew people would be calling for accountability. Knowing all of this, the Grand Rapids City Officials decided to conducted business as usual, to treat last night’s City Commission meeting like any other meeting. The City could have, and should have moved the meeting to a different location to accommodate all of the people who came to the meeting last night. The optics alone, would have sent a stronger message, where City Officials would have to look at a crowd of over 500, instead of managing the dissent of Grand Rapids residents.

There were powerful things that were said during the meeting last night, which you can watch here. But those collective comments would have been more powerful if the space would have accommodated the collective, both those who came to speak in person and those who WOULD have called in to comment, but are no longer allowed to do so since the in-person meetings resumed.

If you were not at the City Commission meeting, please listen to the comments from the City Commissioners at the end of the meeting. Their collective comments were instructive, but we shouldn’t be fooled by what they said. No amount of crocodile tears can undo the harm that Grand Rapids City Officials  have done in recent years, particularly around the issue of policing. In the end, their comments were performative and we should not be lulled by their comments and their shallow apologies.

We now know that the video from April 4, when the GRPD killed Patrick Lyoya, will be released today, on Wednesday, April 13 at 3pm during a Press Conference. We should be clear that the release of the video during the Press Conference on Wednesday will also be used as an attempt to manage public dissent. We cannot allow ourselves to let Chief Winstrom or any Grand Rapids City Officials to dictate how the public responds to the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya.

It is critical that we collectively center the the family of Patrick Lyoya with whatever response we have, but it is also important that whatever actions we take DO NOT perpetuate business as usual. We have to disrupt business as usual and to be strategic in our resistance. There is another protest scheduled for Wednesday, April 13 at 5pm. Please check in with groups like Defund the GRPD, Together We Are Safe, Voices of the Revolution and numerous other community-based, grassroots groups that have a more robust vision for dismantling the deep seated White Supremacy and Managerial Racism that is Grand Rapids. Change will NOT come from those in power, but from the grassroots, as it always has.

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