Grand Rapids, MI – A diverse crowd of local residents gathered peacefully at Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids this evening in the wake of the controversial ruling by a Missouri grand jury announced late Monday night to not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
At the start of the rally 300 supporters were in attendance. By 8 p.m., when local leaders began to speak, the crowd had grown to about 700 people.
There was a small police presence at the rally consisting of a two officers who stood several yards away from the crowd. A GRPD mobile surveillance camera unit was set up and a police cruiser was parked nearby.
Before leaders began to address the crowd, a four-and-a-half minute moment of silence was held in remembrance of Brown to represent the four and a half hours he laid on the ground dead following the shooting in August. Between each speaker, the crowd chanted, “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”
Voices Not Heard Organizer Paul Mayhue of Grand Rapids talked about the resources available to people to file a grievance including the Grand Rapids Police Chief Advisory Committee and the Grand Rapids Police Civilian Appeal Board.
“None of the candidates in the recent election addressed anything about our issues. Our President is a very courageous person in a firestorm,” said Mayhue. “But I’m calling on the President to issue an executive order to enact Civilian Appeal Boards as a national policy.” Mayhue explained that because such programs are voluntary, local cities often choose to not to have such an appeal process available to citizens.
Anita Moore, organizer of the Grand Rapids chapter of Black Lives Matter said, “I cried when I woke up this morning. Why do I have to face the same fears that my great grandmother had to face?”
Another organizer of the event called on the local black community to make their voice heard by boycotting Black Friday sales. “We are financially present. If you can, try not to shop, and reflect on what has happened.” “Let’s not be color blind. Let’s heal and grow and unite and move forward.”
Grand Rapids Resident, Anthony Cherette who attended the rally and identified himself as being a Native American said, “I am upset and I concerned that I see violence against black people is growing instead of shrinking.”
Moore said, “It’s about police brutality against black males. I invite the Grand Rapids police to come down here and speak on where you stand, if you stand with us.”
Speakers encouraged members of the black community to see the value in themselves and called on the crowd to not become complacent with just having a rally.
Sam Jones-Darling of Grand Rapids said, “It’s one thing to be angry and there’s a place for that. But we need to put our feet forward and take action. This means working together.”
Protests occurred on August 9th in Ferguson, MO after officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown who was a suspect in a robbery. Following the late night announcement by the grand jury Monday that Wilson would not be indicted, more protests and violence broke out in Ferguson.
Cherette said, “My hope is that the trend of violence is reversed. It’s by people standing and saying we will not be silent and excuse our neighbors being murdered.”