May 31, 2020
To: City Manager Mark Washington
Mayor Rosalyn Bliss
Commissioner Joe Jones
Commissioner Senita Lenear
Commissioner Rev. Nathaniel Moody
Commissioner Jon O’Connor
Commissioner Kurt Reppart
Commissioner Milinda Ysasi
The pain of the death of George Floyd is real and heard and felt across the country, and this pain stands on top of the many, many scars from the other black people that have been brutalized and murdered at the hands of police.
Last night, on Saturday, this country convulsed. There will be no lack of analysis and thought in the coming days that goes into how and who is responding to the pain and suffering caused by unchecked policing in our country. We have stood as strongly as we can to push back on the institution of policing, but it isn’t fast enough.
But today at 1:30pm, Mayor Bliss and City Manager Washington proclaimed a curfew for the city of Grand Rapids over the next 48 hours. Leadership at Equity PAC see this as a response that is the opposite of what is good for the people of Grand Rapids. The curfew sets up a near certainty of conflict between police and different groups that attended the Saturday protest for George Floyd. Furthermore, the city has failed to communicate the order well. Community organizations are being asked to communicate the order and were not receiving information until well after 5pm today, and there is still no Spanish-speaking version of the order as of 5:47pm.
Further, the literature shows that curfews fail and often exacerbate crime. The Campbell Collaboration conducted a systematic review of research literature on juvenile curfew programs in 2016:
Campbell examined over 7,000 studies on juvenile curfews and synthesized the 12 most rigorous studies. The report stated that, “evidence suggests that juvenile curfews are ineffective at reducing crime and victimization. The average effect on juvenile crime during curfew hours was slightly positive — that is a slight increase in crime — and close to zero for crime during all hours. Similarly, juvenile victimization also appeared unaffected by the imposition of a curfew ordinance.”
We ask and implore the City Manager, Mayor, City Commission and Police Chief to consider the record of other cities instead that have done exemplary management of protests in place of these recommendations. Below are situations where cities managed protests well which resulted in a relatively peaceful outcome:
- Nashville, TN: On Nov 25, 2014 during the second night of nationwide protests following the decision of the grand jury not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson, protestors shut down highway I-24. Instead of responding with arrests or tear gas, Chief Steve Anderson shut down the highway to allow for demonstrators to stage their protests safely. He said “we have to safeguard life, even if people put themselves in peril.” Not only did the police accommodate the officers, the officers greeted protestors with hot chocolate when they showed up at the police department.
- Richmond, CA: In protests in California following Ferguson, police chief Chris Magnus went further: He actually joined protesters this week. When about 100 demonstrators assembled downtown, Magnus stood with them, in full police gear, carrying a sign reading #BlackLivesMatter. Even as Magnus did this, only a few miles away Berkeley exploded with violent clashes as more aggressive police tactics were used.
- Flint, MI: In Flint, hundreds of protestors shut down Miller Road on Saturday seeking justice for George Floyd. The group blocked off I-75 southbound on and off-ramps along Miller Road. From Mlive:
After more than two hours, the march was led to the Flint Township Police Department, where protesters were met with a line of Flint Township officers and Genesee County Sheriff’s deputies wearing riot gear and holding batons.
Protesters initially sat down to show their peace, and after conversations sparked between police and protesters, common ground was found. High-fives, hugs and fist bumps were exchanged.
Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson took his helmet off and put his baton on the ground as a sign of peace. Swanson and other Flint-area police officers ultimately joined the march, which continued back past the Genesee Valley Mall onto Miller Road to the Target parking lot.
We, at Equity PAC, implore the city to consider the following recommendations for tonight and tomorrow:
- Do not enforce the curfew or communicate enforcement any further
- If people are arrested, expunge any records and waive all fines for those in violation of this order
- Do not allow the National Guard to come into Grand Rapids
- Instead, city officials, police, and other administrators greet people coming down town with food, water, listening, and conversation. Try to find common ground.
- End the curfew early on Monday
We realize there may be escalation tonight in Grand Rapids no matter what is communicated or what actions are taken, and we understand the police will have to be prepared. However, with only a curfew we believe that there will be certain escalation, and certainly deeper, long-term mistrust between communities of color and the city.
We need immediate, thoughtful and innovative public leadership and a commitment to peace in our city tonight. We need our police officers and city leadership to sit and listen and acknowledge the pain that has been caused by this cities’ police department and policing in the US for centuries. We need vulnerability tonight, not escalation.
We lose nothing by embracing people and their fears and suffering tonight. But if we don’t, we stand to lose years of progress and gain more damage and fear.
With urgency and hope,
Equity PAC leadership
Tonight at 7pm, the Grand Rapids City Commission will be holding a public hearing on the budget for the coming year. Equity PAC has looked through the proposed budget, listened to the City’s budget presentations and attended meetings in order to distill it into promising highlights and opportunities for advocacy.
Expect significant cuts to the budget because of COVID-19 and even greater opportunities for advocacy to continue investment in equity related efforts and initiatives. More specifically, the preliminary budget suggests a $23 million cut (on top of a near $40 million reduction last year). This year’s cuts are due to the economic impact of COVID-19 and are expected to touch every department. The City has implemented a hiring freeze and more cuts may be needed as revenue projections are updated.
Below are highlights from the City budget, including promising decisions and opportunities to advocate. This process moves incredibly fast. We ask you to advocate at tonight’s 7pm virtual public comment, and write and/or your call elected City official before Thursday’s final vote.
In August of 2019 City Manager Washington created the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability. In doing so, he created the opportunity for our city and community to foster true fundamental change regarding systemic power, policy and personnel issues that have eroded trust between community and police for generations.
While this unique opportunity is welcomed, we know the vision and impact of this office will rest heavily on the skill and character of the person chosen to lead it. This person’s decisions will set precedents and expectations, develop the intentional relationships necessary to bridge existing divides, and establish the metrics for which success and failure will be measured. That’s precisely why we believe that Brandon Davis is the best person to lead this work. He possesses not only the technical skills and experience, but also the quality of character needed to lead this difficult work. We strongly support his hire as the first Director of the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability.Read more
The final outcomes of Tuesday’s city commission races in Grand Rapids’ 2nd and 1st ward signal a growing change, and place current and future leaders on notice. Congratulations to both Milinda Ysasi and Allison Lutz for playing historic roles in Grand Rapids politics. Milinda, the ready and reliable candidate and our first Latina city commissioner, was overwhelmingly elected despite an opponent employing negative tactics and historic volumes of police money. Allison came within a few hundred votes of upsetting her heavily police supported incumbent. She led a true grassroots and people-focused campaign. Equity PAC was proud to support both through donations and volunteers.
On November 5th, the general election will be held for the City of Grand Rapids. Allison Lutz is a candidate running for the 1st Ward city commission seat against incumbent Jon O'Connor. Equity PAC is endorsing Allison Lutz for that election.
On August 6th a primary election will be held for the City of Grand Rapids. Milinda Ysasi is a candidate running for the 2nd ward city commission seat being vacated by Commissioner Ruth Kelly. Equity PAC is endorsing Milinda Ysasi in that primary election.
Photo credit: Dreams by BellaRead more
Equity PAC's 2019 Endorsement Process is now open! If you are a candidate running for elected office in Kent County in 2019 and seek Equity PAC's endorsement the first step is to complete and submit the Application for Endorsement. We will be accepting applications now through June 18th.
Equity PAC is calling on all community members to attend the City Commission meetings in May to ask your city commissioner to:
1) insist on a police union contract that removes barriers to civilian oversight, transparency, community accountability
2) hire a new police chief that is serious about police reform
3) eliminate investment in any more patrol officers
Please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org which meeting you plan to attend, and whether you need a ride. Equity PAC will work with you to arrange a ride. We will meet in the lobby of City Hall at 6:30pm on both dates to provide information on making general comments at City Commission.
Tues, May 14th at 7pm
Tues, May 21st at 7pm
City Commission meetings take place at:
300 Monroe Ave NW, 9th Floor
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Since its inception, Equity PAC has fiercely backed local millages that support schools, transportation, and our public libraries. The slow erosion and divestment from our public goods is stark in Michigan. Michigan is dead last in tax revenue generated for the state’s K-12 system, and no other state is remotely close to this kind of decline. Questions by the community about the future of libraries in a digital age are at an all time high. Similarly the Rapid pushes to evolve with technology and “become a 21st century transportation system that meets the need of all users” [Rose Fellows report, 2017].Read more