GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It appears most people are following a curfew imposed after a Saturday night riot in Grand Rapids.
Since 7 p.m. Sunday, News 8 has seen seven arrests. The first six arrests happened at Rosa Parks Circle within the first 30 minutes of the curfew. The seventh arrest was a young man who rode his bike at barriers where police were standing.
This curfew is being strictly enforced. There are barriers throughout the city and windows are boarded up. In addition, there are undercover officers in alleys, and authorities are on bikes and horses.
The Michigan National Guard arrived in the city just before the curfew started.
Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss declared a civil emergency and called up the National Guard to protect the city after riots damaged 100 businesses and seven vehicles overnight.
As part of the order, Grand Rapids will be under a curfew for 48 hours. The curfew is 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.; those who do not honor it by staying home could be charged with a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. The restrictions do not apply to people traveling to and from work during curfew times.
“Yesterday and throughout the night, we watched as a peaceful protest evolved into violence, chaos and destruction in our city,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss during a virtual news conference Sunday afternoon. “What happened last night is beyond heartbreaking and is unacceptable.”
Grand Rapids city leaders say they’ll have “significant” police presence outside Sunday night and will “use every tool available” to prevent more violence.
“This is not the night you want to try it,” Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington repeatedly warned potential vandals.
Washington said while the city had planned for potential unrest before Saturday, they didn’t expect such a massive turnout for the march, which was planned to protest the death of George Floyd.
“We did increase staffing; the chief was staffed up for it. But certainly, we don’t expect our community to behave in this matter. So, this is not common behavior. In that way, this is surprising,” said Washington during the news conference.
City officials say 3,000 to 4,500 people took part in the march, which they called “unplanned” since a route wasn’t shared with the city.
An organizer previously told News 8 the protest was meant to be a silent march and the people who incited the violence were not with her group.
Police Chief Eric Payne says seven people were arrested during the riots “and we will make more if necessary,” vowing to post images of the vandals on social media and share footage with the media to bring those responsible to justice.
Payne said some of the people who took part in the riots were from out of town, but he couldn’t immediately say from where.
Grand Rapids Fire Department Chief John Lehman said GRFD had increased staffing before the protest and later riots, but couldn’t reach all of the fires promptly.
“We’re not used to having things thrown at us as we respond to try and assist our community,” he said.
“We are here to serve and protect and that’s what we’ll continue to be doing,” Lehman added.
Lehman said one of several dumpster fires caused “significant” damage to adjacent San Chez Bistro.
All seven car fires crews responded to involved police cruisers—five from Wyoming and two from Grand Rapids.
Lehman said the three building fires firefighters battled were arson.
No one was seriously injured during the riots, the city reported.
To those questioning why police didn’t respond to the unrest more aggressively, Washington said a lot was happening behind the scenes. The city manager said like similar riots in other cities, vandals tried to break into the GRPD headquarters, and it “took a tremendous amount of resources” to hold them at bay.
The city manager said once the headquarters were secured, police started fanning out across the area to try to squelch the violence.
The Grand Rapids Art Museum was among the buildings targeted by vandals. The GRAM issued the following statement Sunday:
“Yesterday was a very confounding and painful day for the Grand Rapids Art Museum and our community. We stand in solidarity with the individuals who peacefully protested violence and inequity in America and were saddened to see the events turn toward destruction.
“Although our building was damaged by last night’s events, we take solace in knowing the overall impact was limited. We are currently examining the full extent of the damage sustained, but our initial assessment indicates that many of our first-floor windows (including the Museum Store and WOOD TV 8/GRAM Media Arts Center) were shattered, some of our outdoor furniture was damaged, and our terrace was graffitied.
“We can confirm that our large double-paned safety glass windows are secure, the building was never entered, works of art were not impacted, and, most importantly, our staff that remained on-site were all unharmed.
“Our initial remediation efforts today include cleaning up debris, stabilizing the windows and reviewing damage and repair costs for our insurance provider.
“We are deeply grateful to our security staff who were in the building overnight, as well as the police and emergency officials from the city and region who worked to keep our community safe. Our hearts go out to our downtown neighbors and the many small businesses that were also affected by last night’s events.
“Our mission is to connect people through art, creativity, and design and we believe ever more strongly in the significance and power of art, and the importance of art museums in our communities. While scenes from last night are heartbreaking, the scene downtown this morning is one of a community coming together, helping each other.
“We know art has a great power to bring people together, to build bridges across divides, and to better understand what makes us human.”
Bliss is hoping there are other motivators to keeping the peace, like the everyday citizens who turned out Sunday morning to clean up the damage.
“This does not represent who we are,” said Bliss in reference to rioters. “Who we are is what we all experienced this morning as hundreds and hundreds of people came out to restore our city.”