Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

Grand Rapids mobilizes for Patrick Lyoya ahead of court date

By Sam Tunningley

Robert Womack and Reginald James demonstrate how Patrick Lyoya was murdered in A

Grand Rapids, MI – The calls for conviction of Christopher Schurr, the cop who murdered 26-year-old Congolese immigrant Patrick Lyoya, were heard in the streets of Grand Rapids on Thursday, August 31, during a rally of 70 people demanding justice ahead of Schurr’s Court of Appeals date next week. This is the first of two events planned – the second will be to pack the court next week for Schurr’s hearing.

Protesters gathered at Calder Plaza before kicking off a march that circled through the downtown and finished at the Kent County Courthouse for speeches. The event was emceed by Robert Womack, a county commissioner, and included civil rights lawyer Ben Crump; Patrick Lyoya’s father, Peter; Pastor Sean Holland of the Lansing Black Lives Matter; and Kellan Martin of the Grand Rapids Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

Peter Lyoya, speaking through his translator Israel Siku, expressed his gratitude for those carrying on the fight for his son. “The blood of Patrick cries for justice,” said Lyoya. The slogans “Cry 4 Justice” and “We will never forget!” have been adopted as rallying cries by the family in the months leading up to the hearing.

“This is bigger than Christopher Schurr,” said Womack, who filled the gaps between speakers with chants and powerful words. “Whether he goes to jail or not, we won’t stop there until city hall bends to the will of the people!” Womack led chants of “Guilty! Guilty!” and “Justice for? Patrick Lyoya!”

Ben Crump, who has represented a number of high-profile cases pivotal in the Black lives matter movement, flew into Grand Rapids to speak at the rally. He offered sobering and powerful reflections on the progress of the movement against police and told the audience to try and avoid being discouraged from the fight.

Crump said we should take seriously Schurr’s claim he was following training procedures from the Grand Rapids Police Department, as it points to a systemic problem with policing in the city.

“They didn’t think we were going to get justice for George Floyd. They didn’t think we were going to get justice for Ahmaud Arbery,” said Crump. “It was the people who made us get justice for George Floyd.”

Kellan Martin, a member of the Grand Rapids Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, spoke on the police violence in the city, calling it “obscene” and arguing the police treat Black people in Grand Rapids as colonial subjects. The Alliance played a role in organizing the rally, offering to distribute flyers and unite forces across the city to attend.

The rally closed with more chants in front of the courthouse. “Will we ever forget? No!” “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

Schurr and his defense team were granted a leave to appeal in April. In the year since the murder, the defense has been fighting to have the case dropped, citing self-defense in the line of duty. The video, however, clearly shows Patrick Lyoya unarmed, with Schurr pinning him to the ground and shooting him in the head. Womack noted during the rally the absurdity of Schurr even having an appeals hearing.

The Lyoya family are demanding justice for their son and want to continue ensuring his memory burns bright in the city’s consciousness. Schurr’s hearing is on September 6, at 9 a.m, and the family, local groups and the Grand Rapids Alliance are calling to pack the court with Lyoya’s supporters.

Rally demands justice for Patrick Lyoya.

#GrandRapidsMI #PoliceBrutality #PatrickLyoya