Published in Economic Development

Civil unrest leads to curfew, arrests in Grand Rapids

BY Sunday, May 31, 2020 11:10pm

Grand Rapids officials responded with a 48-hour state of civil emergency and a 7 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew on Sunday and Monday nights after peaceful protests against police brutality turned violent.

City officials reported Sunday that the previous evening resulted in seven arrests, no injuries, seven vehicle fires, three structure fires and several dumpster or trash fires. 

Nine people were arrested overnight for curfew-related violations, according to the city. 

The curfew allows for travel to and from work, but prohibits “walking, running, loitering, standing or motoring upon any alley, street, highway, public property or vacant premises” in the city.

City Manager Mark Washington said between 3,000-4,500 people marched downtown on Saturday as protests against the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis spread across dozens of U.S. cities. 

Though Grand Rapids increased police staffing and engaged its emergency operations center, Washington said officials were surprised by the violence that ensued after the peaceful protests. He added that it took a “tremendous amount of resources” for police to secure the department’s downtown headquarters Saturday night. 

“We certainly don’t expect our community to behave in this manner,” Washington said during a Sunday press conference. “This is not who we are or want to be.”

Police deployed tear gas on protesters throughout the night on Saturday. 

Downtown was bustling on Sunday morning with at least 100 volunteers as plywood was installed to replace broken windows and volunteers cleaned up damage from the night before. Cleaning supplies were dispersed in Rosa Parks Circle to volunteers, and several restaurants downtown were handing out free food to those helping with the clean up effort. 

City officials said 100 businesses were affected by the damage, which included the streets surrounding Rosa Parks Circle. Businesses are allowed to stay open during the curfew, though many — including grocery stores — closed before 7 p.m. Curfews were also in place on Sunday night in Lansing and Detroit.

Grand Rapids Fire Chief John Lehman said Saturday night was “not an environment we’re used to responding in,” noting some protesters threw objects at fire department personnel.

Washington said city law enforcement was assisted by police from the city of Wyoming and the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, and the National Guard was called in to assist with curfew enforcement and protection of property, city officials said.

“What happened is beyond heartbreaking and is unacceptable,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said Sunday afternoon. “Violence, chaos and destruction have no place in our city.”

MiBiz reporter Kate Carlson contributed to this story.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with curfew-related arrest figures from Sunday evening. 

Read 2388 times Last modified on Monday, 01 June 2020 11:40