Curfew in effect for Grand Rapids after protests turn violent with cars set on fire, windows smashed overnight

Posted at 8:12 AM, May 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 09:25:33-04

A peaceful Black Lives matter protest yesterday with a sea of people in heart of downtown Grand Rapids turned into a riot that left historic destruction across the city's core by sunrise this morning.

Due to the events of Saturday night, city leaders have enacted a curfew to go into effect Sunday. The curfew for the city is from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. and will remain in effect until Tuesday, when leaders will evaluate if the curfew is necessary to extend.

City leaders say the curfew will in fact be enforced and those who break curfew face up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $500 if arrested.

The protest began at 6 p.m. at Rosa Parks Circle, which overflowed with protesters. Organizers at the rally there called for a peaceful protest.

The crowd, which appeared to be in the thousands, proceeded along Monroe Ave. NW and marched up Division Avenue past Van Andel Arena, before packing in front of the Grand Rapids Police Department headquarters on Monroe Center St. NW.

Initially, several Wyoming Police Department officers stood in front of the GRPD headquarters doors with their bicycles, as protesters crowded them.

The crowd was chanting in unison – repeatedly – throughout the protest: "Black Lives Matter." "George Floyd. Say his name." "Hands up, don't shoot." and more.

The peaceful protest took a turn when protesters began vandalizing the walls of the police headquarters with spray paint, including George Floyd's name and profanity.

A group of protesters also surrounded a police cruiser, requiring the officers to abandon the vehicle, which was later recovered.

GRPD's chief, Eric Payne, then told FOX 17 that he and the department definitely hear the protesters and to not further "escalate" the protest.

Some protesters broke the front doors and a window at Villa, a lifestyle retailer, taking some items with them. Other protesters and police officers controlled the scene, with protesters guarding the broken front doors and window, as police officers left the scene.

The GRPD later sent several officers to stand in front of the headquarters, with the Wyoming PD officers leaving the post.

A line of police officers in riot gear could then be seen standing on the stairwell inside the GRPD headquarters.

Some protesters threw water at the doors of the police headquarters doors, while other protesters took a knee.

One of the front doors to the Secretary of State office was broken as well.

A police spokesperson then told FOX 17 that it is time for people to go home, saying the protest had become an "unlawful demonstration."

Police seemingly sent a volley of tear gas at protesters, with protesters covering their eyes and mouths.

After nightfall at around 10 p.m., a line of police officers in riot gear lined the width of the crosswalk at Divison and Fulton, with a swat vehicle near them, forming a perimeter around part of the GRPD headquarters.

After a large fire was set in an alley off of Division, some police officers walked up Division setting off what appeared to be flash bangs to help disperse the remaining crowd.

Two men then put out the large fire, which was climbing the wall of a building, with fire extinguishers.

A much smaller crowd of protesters remained, with a group sitting and kneeling before police lining a crosswalk, who asked the protesters to please disperse. Other protesters milled around the area of Veterans Memorial Park.

More widows at the Secretary of State were broken by protesters. Windows all around the GRPD headquarters were broken. Stop signs were used to destroy storefronts.

Police sent several volleys of what appeared to be tear gas high into the air, causing people to run from the area, as well as several more volleys later.

The volleys continued to be sent into the air at protesters.

At around 11 p.m., more GRPD officers streamed out of their headquarters in riot gear.

Michigan State Police cruisers lined up on Fulton Street in front of Van Andel Arena to help disperse protesters. Cruisers from the Kent County Sheriff's Office and East Grand Rapids Police Department were also on the scene.

After midnight, the crowd that remained early Sunday deteriorated into complete vandalism and riotous behavior: destroying storefronts up and down Monroe Center St. NW and all around the core of downtown.

Lines of officers eventually blocked off the retail corridor on Monroe Center between Division and Ionia.

The owner of Cinco de Mayo on Monroe Center told FOX 17 he went into his business to secure his computers, cash and other items. When asked, he said doesn't know what he did to protesters for them to destroy his storefront.

Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington told FOX 17 that the city will follow-up on all the destruction, and people will be brought to justice.

Washington also said the city will assess the damage on Sunday and start to clean up downtown.

An organizer of the Black Lives Matter protest said they will help clean up downtown on Sunday.

A police spokesperson told FOX 17 mass arrests could happen, and he doesn't recommend anyone be in downtown Grand Rapids.

Afterward, just before 3 a.m., several vehicles, including police cruisers, were found completely burned out. A weapon was strewn on the sidewalk beside a burned police cruiser. Another police vehicle and swat vehicle were vandalized with spray paint.

Fires were seen in a dumpster and trash cans. Fireworks flew into the air, lighting up the dark early morning sky.

One man told FOX 17 a man who said he has a weapon was guarding a jewelry store's storefront.

A landlord told FOX 17 he came downtown to assess the damage of his multi-tenant building after he heard it was damaged.

At around 4:45 a.m., burned-out vehicles were being toward away, marking the start of the city's clean-up process.

The streets were mostly empty as sunrise was on the horizon.