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