GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A small group of demonstrators gathered in downtown Grand Rapids Monday afternoon, a day after several people were arrested during a parade event to honor the life of a Grand Rapids native killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky.
The group accused officers of using excessive force when confronting Breonna Taylor’s family members and their supporters near the Grand Rapids Police Department at the Division Avenue and Fulton Street intersection.
On Sunday, police said about 100 people were gathered for what they called an impromptu protest. Police said demonstrators tried blocking traffic. Five people were arrested and are facing resisting and obstructing charges.
Those who said they were participating in the parade declined to be interviewed but said the group was trying to bring out-of-town guests to Monroe Center, the street they are petitioning city leaders to rename after Taylor.
They said they were not intending to protest at the busy intersection but confusion caused a traffic jam in the area. They say officers got involved and were forceful with participants instead of cooperative.
GRPD Chief Eric Payne said officers responded to the area after getting calls reporting unruly behavior in traffic.
“There was reports of cars doing peal outs and different things — very careless. That puts even the people involved in the rally at risk,” Payne said. “We would never stand in someone’s First Amendment right to voice their opinion about things but it has to be done in a safe manner.”
Payne said the department is aware of concerns about how officers handled the situation. He said the Internal Affairs Unit is now reviewing the matter to determine whether protocol was followed. The chief asked anyone with information that would help in the investigation to contact the police department. GRPD can be reached at 616.456.3400.
“I’m holding my officers accountable for what happened last night as I would with any other incident,” Payne said. “But I also want the community to be held accountable and work with us.”
Taylor, a Grand Rapids native, was shot and killed in her Louisville home as police carried out a no-knock warrant.
Payne said he empathized with those concerned about what happened to Taylor.
“That’s very unfortunate — regardless of how it happened,” Payne said. “It is something that if it could have been avoided, should have been avoided.”