EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — About 300 people gathered in East Grand Rapids Friday for a youth-organized protest over the death of George Floyd.
Protesters marched a short distance from East Grand Rapids Middle School to the park that backs up to Reeds Lake, chanted Floyd’s name and then knelt in silence for nine minutes, marking about the amount of time a Minneapolis police office knelt on Floyd’s neck before his death last week.
Demonstrators also sang “Happy Birthday” to Breonna Taylor, a Grand Rapids native who was shot and killed in her apartment by Louisville police. She would have been 27 Friday.
Among the protesters calling for change was Reid Curberson.
“Beyond police brutality, we live in a different America, and that’s just a fact,” Curberson said.
A few steps behind Curberson was Matt Gravelle and his daughter, who sat on his shoulders.
“My hope is what we’re seeing across the country with adults and people pissed off and in a rage that we finally something change on a systemic level,” Matt Gravelle said.
At least four teen girls organized the protest, working with East Grand Rapids police.
“The Black Lives Matter movement is not a phase. It is not a trend,” said Christie Vieux, one of the organizers.
The protesters, including the East Grand Rapids police chief, admitted change takes time but said taking these steps now makes a difference.
“We’re as concerned with unjust policing as anybody else,” East Grand Rapids Public Safety Chief Mark Herald told protesters before the event started.
Herald also walked with protesters who marched from downtown Grand Rapids to East Grand Rapids and then back on Wednesday.
Floyd’s death has sparked protests across the country and a renewed call for police reform, particularly when it comes to how authorities interact with minorities.
“It’s important whenever something goes wrong that we do have to power to make changes but this is long overdue so I hope when I have kids, when all of us have children, that the world looks different,” protester Raenae Lindsey said.
“I want to make that America change for my children my children’s children and going forward,” Curberson added.
Earlier in the day, a similar youth-organized protest brought hundreds of people to Kalamazoo. The event officially started around noon Friday at Bronson Park.
Many speakers took to the stage, calling for justice and real change in America.
Kalamazoo Central High School students planned the event. The Youth Peaceful Protest for Black Lives Matter also had participation from many other local schools. Demonstrators say it was crucial to keep the protest peaceful.
“That’s an amazing thing how students organized this whole entire thing. I just feel like that’s a really good thing because it shows that we care and we have a voice too and we want it to be heard, so I feel like that’s an amazing thing how students just got this whole thing together, how everybody came and supported it,” said Breighlyn, a student at Vicksburg High School.
The protesters held up signs and called for people to work together to make a lasting impact. In addition, protesters also marched around downtown.