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Police Chief Winstrom made a fool out of himself with fraudulent comments about activists in Grand Rapids who are demanding the GRPD be defunded

April 30, 2023

On Friday, there was a Black man who was shot and killed on the Southeast side of Grand Rapids. WOODTV8 ran a story about the shooting, which included comments from Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom. 

In the channel 8 story, Winstrom commented about what may have caused the shooting, but then used the opportunity to take a shot at those who have been calling for the GRPD to be defunded:

Winstrom questioned why those who continue to push to defund the police aren’t out supporting their neighborhoods.

“There’s people willing to come to every (Grand Rapids City) Commission meeting to advocate for abolishing the police; every commission meeting,” he said. “I didn’t see any one of those people at this murder scene, talking to the mom, advocating for the residents of the 3rd Ward.”

These comments from Winstrom are very instructive and reveal a great deal about him and how he views people who are not only participating in the very limited democratic process during City Commission meetings, but also people who are, and have been deeply committed to neighborhoods in Grand Rapids for decades.

It is also instructive that Winstrom goes out of his way to point out that those calling for police defunding were not present in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred. First, the cops are the ones who were called and they have all the technology they could ever want to quickly respond to shootings. Second, those who have attended City Commission meeting demanding the City defund the GRPD also have jobs and do other work in the community and can’t at the drop of a hat show up to things like shootings in the City. Third, Winstrom is making an assumption that there was no one present (of those who have attended City Commission meetings) offering support to the families members and residents where the shooting took place. I seriously doubt that the Police Chief could identify everyone who has been involved in this movement, unless of course his department has dossier’s of those who have been demanding the GRPD be defunded since 2020, two years before Winstrom was even hired.

More importantly, when Winstrom says he doesn’t see those calling for the GRPD to be defunded out supporting their neighbors, it only reflects his ignorance and his arrogance. What follows is just a brief list of the ways that many of the very same people who have been demanding that the GRPD be defunded are working directly with their neighbors, particularly BIPOC neighbors and other marginalized residents in Grand Rapids.

  • The Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network (GRAMAN) has raised $295,566 over the past 3 years. All of this Mutual Aid money is prioritized to BIPOC people for rent, food, transportation, medical expenses, etc, and many of the recipients who have benefited from this Mutual Aid, live in the 3rd Ward. In addition, GRAMAN has delivered food, appliances and furniture to families who have requested these kinds of items. Their motto, which is practiced on a daily basis is, “Everything we need is right here in out community.” GRAMAN is not charity, it is Mutual Aid, and Mutual Aid is a form of direct action and solidarity with our neighbors.
  • Several of those who show up to City Commission meetings also are involved in community garden projects, which also benefit the community, both the beautification of neighborhoods, fighting food insecurity and sharing fresh produce with our neighbors.
  • There have been organized efforts to do snow removal in the Third Ward for senior residents and those with disabilities.
  • People demanding the Defunding of the GRPD regularly are involved in providing food, clothing and other necessities to the unhoused community, often distributing items at Heartside Park. 
  • Several people have made food and sold it to raise money for the children of Patrick Lyoya, along with other Mutual Aid projects, which also goes directly to BIPOC residents and neighbors.
  • Other people work with the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union, which provides support to tenants who are being harassed and threatened by landlords and Property Management Companies. The tenant union provides support for those facing eviction and increased rent. Tenants are our neighbors and live in the neighborhoods that Chief Winstrom is talking about.
  • Some people work with GR Rapid Response to ICE, which provides support, solidarity and Mutual Aid for undocumented immigrants who have been impacted by ICE violence. This involves in ongoing Mutual Aid requests, transportation to immigration court hearings, legal support and providing bond funds for those who are in detention. These neighbors who have been impacted by ICE violence live throughout Grand Rapids, many of them in the 3rd Ward.
  • Then there are those who work with Movimiento Cosecha GR, which is an immigrant-led organization that is fighting for immigrant justice. Their current campaign is to win driver’s licenses for all. There are undocumented immigrants in Grand Rapids, including the 3rd Ward and are our neighbors.
  • There are also several people in the group of activists that Chief Winstrom so callously criticized who are social workers and direct care staff, working with Grand Rapids residents who experience poverty, struggle with mental health issues, and those who are marginalized in this city. These people work real neighbors in real neighborhoods throughout Grand Rapids. 

I could go on with all of the amazing things that people who are demanding the defunding of the GRPD do in this community, but it doesn’t seem to matter to Chief Winstrom, who is using his position of power to take pot shots at people who are currently, and have been doing amazing community work for neighbors in Grand Rapids for decades. 

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