GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids police say the two people arrested following a protest downtown Saturday were picked up on outstanding warrants, while the activists who organized the event say they felt harassed.
Justice for Black Lives hosted a demonstration at Rosa Parks Circle Saturday over Kyle Rittenhouse’s not guilty verdict. After it wrapped up, two people were arrested.
“Our leadership made sure to take extra precautions to avoid any threats from the GRPD or any outside of that group. These precautions include things such as not using megaphones and walking on the sidewalks, things that we have faced police interaction with before. We were doing everything we could to avoid police interaction,” Justice for Black Lives President Aly Bates said during a Monday press conference.
The Grand Rapids Police Department said in a Monday statement that the protest was peaceful and didn’t require any intervention. Still, it said it sent officers there because previous protests have led to ordinance violations and sometimes included people who were armed.
“Events involving firearms, legally carried or not, necessitate having officers on stand-by to respond,” GRPD said in a statement.
GRPD said the officers sent to the protest were told that two people who frequently attend such protests were wanted on outstanding warrants stemming from prior events. One of them had also previously been armed, police said. Officers said that when officers approached one of the people on Pearl Street NW to arrest him, “other attendees, who were carrying long guns, ran towards the scene with what appeared to officers as an intent to interfere with the lawful arrest.” Police added that one of those people made sure a bullet was in the chamber of his rifle.
Police say they brought in members of the Special Response Team because of the presence of weapons. Later, they arrested the second person during a traffic stop.
GRPD said its officers were professional and insisted that “no one within the group was targeted or harassed for any personal characteristic.”
“The goal of the department’s deployment of personnel to free speech events is to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” the department’s statement said. “The subjects arrested face no additional charges at this time, other than the charges under their original outstanding warrants.”