GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The scene was loud and passionate the last time Grand Rapids city commissioners tried to conduct a regular session.
Protesters, upset over the police shooting of Patrick Lyoya, commandeered the April 26 meeting, directing their anger at commissioners and Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Eric Winstrom. The mayor closed the meeting early.
“I know there’s still a lot of passion around that. I see it as part of my job. If people want to yell at me, if that’s the way they want to vent, that’s fine,” Winstrom said Tuesday.
Two weeks later, city leaders say they are prepared to let protesters have their say but not at the expense of others who want to speak.
“People have every right to express their anger and outrage. However, how the meeting ended was not acceptable. There were a lot of people here to be heard that weren’t able to be heard because we got shut down, and that’s not fair to them, either,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said of the shortened meeting.
The disruption began when protesters tried to talk about Lyoya during the time set aside to discuss Downtown Development Authority funding. Commissioners ultimately made it through the agenda items, but during an open public comment section near the end of the meeting, protesters again monopolized the mic. Some called for accountability from city leaders. Others expressed frustration over the investigation into the Lyoya shooting. When some used swear words, Bliss adjourned the meeting.
“I’ll be very clear tonight that this is an assembly of a governmental body to do city business,” Bliss said Tuesday.
She said disrupting a public meeting is considered a breach of peace under the law and could bring a misdemeanor charge — though she stopped short of saying she would flex that legal muscle.
“My hope is that people will come and respect the rules and respect the space,” Bliss said.
Chief Winstrom said that like the April 26 meeting, additional officers will be nearby Tuesday evening in case they are needed.
“But hopefully tonight we have a more productive time together and everyone can have their voices be heard, and we can get through the meeting,” Winstrom said.
“Regardless of how you feel in this community, regardless of your opinion about any issue, this should be a space where you can come and be heard,” Bliss said.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. It will stream on the city’s YouTube channel.
News 8 will have a crew following a march to City Hall before the meeting. The crew will also be at the meeting and have updates at 10 p.m. on WXSP and 11 p.m. on WOOD TV8.