Protesters speak out against arrests made during George Floyd rally in downtown Grand Rapids

Mar 10, 2021

Credit WGVU

A protest in Grand Rapids led to eight arrests on Monday evening, and protesters say they were "targeted." The Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) denies this accusation.

Dozens of individuals took to downtown Grand Rapids on Monday night fighting for justice for George Floyd, as Derek Chauvin, the ex-Minneapolis police officer accused of killing Floyd is standing trial. 

In a media release, GRPD said some protesters, "Engaged in the dangerous and illegal act of blocking the roadway." The department said officers repeated requests and warnings to protesters to move off the sidewalk and claim when they didn't officers began to take individuals into custody, noting the rest of the protesters moved to the sidewalk and carried on with the demonstration.

In a press conference on Tuesday protesters shared conflicting accounts than that of GRPD, saying the arrests were "targeted."

"“They told us to get on the sidewalk, we got on the sidewalk and then we were arrested, let’s make that very clear," Danny Santiago, Vice President of the group Justice For Black Lives said.

Another protester, Cristian Bartolo, said the arrests were a "scare tactic" used by law enforcement.

"It’s a way to scare Black and Brown communities from not coming out and using their all important voice to protest, to legally protest, and it’s a way to block that freedom of speech,” Bartolo said, later adding "They know the summer is coming up. They know the anniversaries of all these people who were mercilessly murdered by police are coming up, and they're trying to scare us away from coming out and showing solidarity with other cities."

 During the press conference fellow protester, Reshana Charles, said there's no one, "right" way to do a protest. 

"When you’re out here literally expressing the deepest parts of your soul and your heart, pouring it out for literally anyone and everyone. I don’t think you can be told how to do that properly," Charles said.

A portion of GRPD's statement reads:

"Grand Rapids is a community that not only supports, but encourages, peaceful protest, free speech and constructive dialogue. When that expression violates the law and puts individuals in danger, we have an obligation to uphold those laws when all other reasonable efforts have failed."

Read the full statement, here.