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While Grand Rapids City Commission meeting is shut down again, local commercial news media fail to center the demands of those who are protesting the GRPD killing of Patrick Lyoya

May 11, 2022

Last night, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss decided to stop the City Commission meeting because those who came out to protest for Patrick Lyoya would not play by the rules of commission meetings.

Many people addressed the City Commission last night, some more than once. During the first Public Comment portion, where people could speak on agenda items, several people got up to address the issue of the proposed 2023 City Budget. Virtually everyone who spoke at this point shared their disgust and outrage over the fact that the GRPD Budget would not be reduced and that the City was considering purchasing new vehicles for the Police Department. Several of those who spoke made it clear that they wanted the GRPD Budget reduced to the City Charter mandated 32% of the budget, which would be a significant reduction.

What is instructive is the fact that none of the local news agencies – MLive, WOODTV8, WZZM 13 or WXMI 17 – mentioned the demand that the GRPD be defunded to the City Charter mandated 32%. There was some mention in a few of the stories around police funding, but all four of the local news agencies failed to include he clear demand about defunding the GRPD, which has been one of the most consist demands since June of 2020.

Instead, the focus of the coverage was centered around people swearing during the public comment period, where people became “unruly” or didn’t “respect the space” or allow the City to “conduct City business.” Mayor Bliss was repeatedly quoted by the local news agencies and WOODTV8 even did a story they ran before the 7pm City Commission meeting, where Mayor Bliss and Chief Winstrom were provided a platform to verbalize their talking points, even though the Justice4Patrick movement was not afforded the same opportunity to share their thoughts.

Once the Mayor decided to end the meeting, the rest of the coverage focused on but of video footage of protestors in the Commission Chambers, then outside of City Hall, since the GRPD – which had several dozen officers present – threatened people with arrest if they didn’t leave the building. 

Several of the news agencies did report that one of the those protesting the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya was arrested, but the only source to confirm this was the GRPD. Once again, those with the Justice4Patrick Movement were not asked to provide any comments about the arrest. 

The continued reliance by the local commercial news media on official sources – people with political and economic power – is not just a reflection of how journalism is produced in this city, it demonstrates that the local commercial news media doesn’t have a functional relationship with grassroots community organizers. This lack of relationship with grassroots community organizers stems from the fact that the community doesn’t trust the local commercial news agencies, since they often present biased coverage on policing in this city, which is also due to the fact that the local commercial news agencies have internalized the same values of the very systems of power that they are supposed to hold accountable. #Justice4Patrick#

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