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Grand Rapids, MI: Protest demands justice for Patrick Lyoya

By J. Cortez

Protest demands justice for Patrick Lyoya.

Grand Rapids, MI – On the morning of Wednesday, September 6, cries demanding justice for the murder of Patrick Lyoya resounded from the steps of the State of Michigan Building. There, a three judge Court of Appeals hearing for the ex-police officer, Christopher Schurr, was taking place. Schurr killed the 26-year-old Congolese immigrant Lyoya with a point blank shot to the back of the head during a traffic stop in April of 2022.

Demonstrators congregated outside the building despite a steady rainfall in order to show support for the Lyoya family, who were in attendance at the hearing. The parents of Patrick Lyoya were joined by former Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack and Ven Johnson, their attorney in a civil case against both the city and Schurr.

The protesters, who included local activist groups along with members of the Grand Rapids Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, were repeatedly refused entry to the court room. Instead, they were forced to remain outside where they held signs and engaged in boisterous chants: “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” and “If we don’t get it, shut it down!” Some of this call and response was led by local activist Erykai Cage. She is the cousin of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13, 2020.

About 20 protesters were in attendance during the peak of the rally, and their many signs and flags blocked the view of a huddle of counter-protesters who had arrived to support the police.

Earlier in the event, Grand Rapids Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (GRAARPR) member Barbara Howard spoke on behalf of the Alliance, citing the long history of violence and discrimination faced by nationally oppressed people at the hands of the Grand Rapids Police Department. She resolutely called to “Indict, convict, and send this killer cop to jail,” a sentiment which was echoed amongst those assembled.

Howard concluded with a call to “continue to expose this corrupt justice system that is responsible for mass incarceration, prison slave labor, and the conviction and execution of thousands of innocent people!” On the afternoon of the 6th, a car caravan was also convened in support of Patrick Lyoya.

As of now, further delays in the trial process are anticipated. Kent County Chief Appellate Attorney Katherine Wendt argued, on behalf of the prosecution, that the case must be presented before a jury. The defense team and various police organizations, such as the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police, are aligned in their hope that the charges brought against Schurr be dismissed before such a trial is possible. Schurr’s defense attorney, Matthew Borgula, argued that his client had acted within his rights as a police officer when he shot and killed Lyoya. After the hearing, the appeals panel will produce a written opinion on whether to go forward with a criminal trial, although this is expected to take anywhere from a month to a year, according to Attorney Ven Johnson.

In response to frequent and ongoing delays, local organizers, such as Barbara Howard, persist in their declaration that “Justice delayed is justice denied!” They are insistent that the matter be brought to trial as soon as possible.

GRAARPR plans to accompany a number of Grand Rapids residents affected by police violence, such as the Lyoya family, to attend an upcoming conference of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, which will be held at the Chicago Teachers Union hall on November 3, 4 and 5.

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