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On the one year anniversary of the GRPD killing of Patrick Lyoya: GRIID Interview with a member of the Comrades Collective

March 29, 2023

GRIID – What are your thoughts about how slowly the legal process has taken in regards to trial of the former GRPD cop who killed Patrick Lyoya? 

CC – I expected this to happen. While I was surprised that Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker decided to file charges, it was after the riots in Grand Rapids in response to the police murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. The City didn’t want that to happen again, especially now that they’re pushing tourism downtown with upcoming developments. 

When Becker did decide to file second degree murder charges, the part of me that knew better, anticipated the legal process being slow and steady for Christopher Schurr. He was arrested in Calhoun County, over 60 days after murdering Patrick Lyoya but didn’t spend more than 12 hours in custody. That only happens for people with privilege — he’s a white cop. The legal process doesn’t work like that for people that look like me. 

GRIID – The Comrades Collective has 2 events coming up around the anniversary of when Patrick Lyoya was murdered by the GRPD. Can you talk about those 2 events and they fit into a larger strategy of mobilizing public support around Justice4Patrick?

CC – It’s been almost a year since Patrick Lyoya was murdered. The Comrades Collective is planning a caravan through Boston Square and the southeast side on April 2nd to remind and rally our community. The second event is spearheaded by someone else, RegJames. He had a fundraiser for a “Justice for Patrick Lyoya” billboard reveal. We were already planning to do a march and candlelight vigil on April 4th, so it made sense to collaborate and conjoin them. We understand that our community isn’t as comfortable with the potential repercussions of protesting, so we want to mobilize our community in a less intense but still powerful way. We want their support as much as Patrick’s family does, the movement is hard to carry for a few. 

GRIID – Do you think that the tactic by the lawyers representing the ex-cop who killed Patrick Lyoya, to delay the trial as long as possible, is designed with the hopes that the movement will diminish? If so, what response do you have?

CC – I don’t think it’s solely Schurr’s defense team, they wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this without Chris Becker’s assistance. He’s brought the most pitiful prosecution I’ve ever seen. I foresaw his efforts being half assed, and it was confirmed when I sat in Judge Ayoub’s court during the preliminary hearing and watched Becker present an MSP witness that made Patrick Lyoya look like a criminal, instead of trying to paint him in a more positive light. Becker was doing the defense team’s work for them. I’m suspicious that they were able to push the trial back to October 24th while Judge Elmore was out because “an issue came up.” The motion was approved by Judge Trusock, he isn’t presiding over the case. Schurr’s defense team cited needing to go over thousands of case files and experiencing deaths on their counsel’s family, which Chris Becker didn’t object to. 

While the Prosecutor’s office claims its due process and not wanting to have any missteps, they are all counting on people forgetting and giving up. The City has also targeted activists and organizers that have been consistently showing up, charging them with all kinds of shit to scare them. It’s only making us more vigilant and determined to see it through, so that it isn’t all for nothing. Patrick’s life matters. He could’ve been any one of us or our loved ones. 

GRIID – If the ex-cop is convicted of second degree murder, for many this will be a win. However, for those who see policing in Grand Rapids as a systemic problem, where even abolition of the GRPD is a goal, what would you like to see happen in addition to the conviction of Christopher Schurr?

CC – It’s really hard to imagine a cop being convicted in Grand Rapids, especially after all of the incidents of GRPD brutalizing people over my lifetime. The political climate is grotesquely conservative, considering the money that runs this city and the support that Christopher Schurr has received. That’s all a part of the systemic problem. There would have to be radical policy changes for real accountability, let alone police abolition in Grand Rapids. That’s what I would like to see. If Schurr were to be convicted, I wouldn’t see it as a win because Patrick Lyoya’s life and the lives of so many others impacted by police brutality, have been forever changed. 

GRIID – Lastly, how important is it for people to understand the link between policing in Grand Rapids and structural racism?

CC – It’s life or death for people to understand and address the link between policing in Grand Rapids and structural racism. The purpose of the police is to enforce the will of the rich. In Grand Rapids, the structure protects and serves the DeVos and Van Andels, their names are on most of the buildings downtown and around the county. Their money is what pumps through the veins of the city government. However, until we realize how powerful we are together, the program will remain the same. 

For more information on the Comrades Collective, you can follow them on Facebook. You can also watch the latest Comrades Collective podcast, which discusses the same issues reflected in the above interview.

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