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Police brutality protesters gather in Lansing and Grand Rapids

By Severin Mortensen

Grand Rapids, MI – Protesters gathered in several major Michigan cities last weekend, including Grand Rapids and Lansing, demanding justice for the Minneapolis Police Department’s killing of George Floyd and for all victims of police brutality.

On Saturday, May 30, protesters in Grand Rapids gathered at Rosa Parks Circle for what was planned to be a silent march through the city. Instead, protesters crowded around the Grand Rapids Police Department shouting, “I can’t breathe!” “No justice, no peace!” “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “Say his name: George Floyd!” Thousands of people surrounded the building containing the GRPD at the height of the protest. According to WOODTV, clashes erupted around 9 p.m. as protesters smashed windows on the building containing the GRPD and other buildings downtown and burned several police vehicles.

On May 31, several thousand protesters attended a rally at the capitol in Lansing. Protesters initially gathered on the steps to display signs and listen to speakers about the need for police accountability and announcements about organizations pushing for police transparency.

As the crowd grew, chanting began as a young Black man and woman moved through the crowd with a megaphone, calling for the protesters to chant and take to the streets and “Do something!” Around noon the crowd began to walk out into the streets downtown, briefly returned to the capitol lawn, and finally began a sustained march through the streets.

According to the Lansing State Journal, the marching continued well into the evening, and included groups going as far as the East Lansing Police Department. Around 6:30 p.m., a car attempted to drive into the crowd and was flipped over and set on fire. Shortly thereafter, one man in the crowd broke the window of a Chase Bank, and an altercation broke out nearby. In response, police fired teargas into the crowd to disperse it.

Actions continued later in the week in both cities, with protesters gathering in downtown Grand Rapids daily, despite National Guard presence. In Lansing, a man named Paul Birdsong staged a one-man protest at the capitol Wednesday night, laying on the ground. Hundreds of people ultimately gathered within an hour and marched briefly to Sparrow Hospital and back. As the Lansing curfew approached, Birdsong told the gathered crowd he would be out at the Capitol at 7 p.m. every night until change happened.

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