Grand Rapids, MI: Rally for Patrick Lyoya demands end to trial delays
Grand Rapids, MI – On Saturday, May 27, 60-plus community members gathered in Martin Luther King Park for a march to demand justice for Patrick Lyoya. Lyoya was a 26-year-old Congolese refugee murdered by Grand Rapids Police Department Officer Christopher Schurr last year. Peter Lyoya, Patrick’s father, is determined to keep public focus on the case to stop the city and Schurr’s defense team from further delaying a trial.
The march was organized by the Lyoya family, in cooperation with the Grand Rapids Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack. Israel Siku, a translator for the family and a liaison between Patrick Lyoya’s closest relatives and the broader community, helped lead the march and translate speeches.
Before beginning, all the protesters were handed shirts with the slogan “We will never forget what you have done” on the front and “We will never forget Patrick” on the back, along with double-sided signs reading “Justice for Patrick Lyoya” and “You can’t free the guilty.”
Marchers chanted through residential streets surrounding the park, encouraging onlookers to join in. Siku led several call-and-response chants: “Will we ever forget? No!” “Will we ever forget what Schurr did? No!” “What do we want? Justice!” In the middle of the march, Siku and the protesters broke into dance and handclaps before a crowd of all ages.
Siku then handed the bullhorn to Robert Womack, a strong and early supporter of the family, to begin speeches. He introduced Peter Lyoya as the first speaker, who made it clear the message of the rally is “We have not forgotten.” Lyoya, in a forceful speech, said the city has covered up the brutality of the police department against Black lives for too long – today it was Patrick; tomorrow it could be anyone else. The family said they will continue to fight for justice and for a conviction.
Kellan Martin, a member of the Grand Rapids Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, was introduced next by Womack. Womack called the Alliance’s involvement with the rally, along with local immigrant rights group Movimiento Cosecha Grand Rapids, a “rainbow coalition” and thanked the group personally for their efforts in organizing.
“Those in power who want to divide us are scared of what can happen when we unite and act as one,” said Martin. The Alliance provided a banner with the words “Justice for Patrick Lyoya” carried by the family for the duration of the march.
Since Patrick’s murder last year, Schurr, who has been charged with second-degree murder, has been granted multiple trial delays, with the latest pushed to October 24. In April, Schurr was granted a leave of appeal to contest the charges, with the defense arguing the District Court’s decision for Schurr to stand trial in Circuit Court was an overstep.
The family has said repeatedly these delays are a tactic to erode public support. In the past year, and after the release of video evidence, a grassroots movement has erupted in the city, with groups from all over calling for Schurr’s conviction.
After the speeches, the group was routed back to MLK Park, wrapping a two-mile trek through the streets. The rally, as promised by all the groups and individuals involved in organizing, is the first of several this summer.