GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The name of Patrick Lyoya echoed through downtown Grand Rapids again Friday afternoon and evening, as various protests over his killing by a Grand Rapids police officer continued.
Among the groups taking to the streets were medical students from Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine.
They call themselves White Coats for Black Lives, several dozen medical students backed up by college of human medicine faculty members, frustrated by the events of the last two weeks and looking for answers.
Clad in their white lab coats and carrying signs of protest, the medical students left their classrooms and clinics to send a message.
Among the protestors was first-year medical student and West Michigan native Marissa Solorzano.
“I think that’s important in medicine. I think more physicians should be doing this,” Solorzano said.
The shooting happened two weeks ago Monday, and the release of video from the incident this week has stirred a range of emotions, from grief to anger.
“I’m from West Michigan, and I have just never felt this much disappointment in my community,” Solorzano said. “So sure, we have to wait for this process, but I mean, you also have to help your community heal as we’re processing that instantaneous disgust that you feel when you find out about these things.”
They marched from the school of medicine, through the heart of downtown and back to the entrance of Spectrum Butterworth.
They were joined on the march by College of Human Medicine faculty members.
“Being a physician does not just mean being in the office. It means advocating and speaking out for social justice issues,” said Dr. Lisa Lowery, a pediatrician and Assistant Dean for Diversity and Cultural Initiatives at the College of Human Medicine. “It’s important that we get out and say, ‘You know what, we’re not just there to listen with a stethoscope. We’re here to listen with our hearts and our ears, and advocate for change.’”
As protests continue, Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Eric Winstrom says that the absence of police was by design to avoid any faceoffs between officers and demonstrators that could escalate tensions.
“We’re trying to accommodate the First Amendment rights of these individuals as well as we can,” Winstrom said. “And so far it’s been a successful few days of protests. We haven’t made a single arrest and there haven’t been any issues as far as safety is concerned.”
As we watch the case unfold, marchers say one fact is undeniable.
“A life was lost,” Lowery said. “And we need to look back and say where in this whole process could we have stopped and avoided such a tragedy.“
During the evening on Friday, protests continued for a fourth straight day over the police killing of Patrick Lyoya.
“The longer we are here, the longer our message gets across,” Brianna Pearson, who helped lead the protest, told News 8. “If our voices are not heard, there won’t be any changes made.”
And this time, instead of circling the police department like previous nights, demonstrators marched for miles all over downtown Grand Rapids.
The protest lasted nearly three hours. As as they covered more ground, more people joined the crowd.
“Instead of just walking in circles, we gotta march other places,” Pearson said. “We gotta spread the word. We want people to hear us. Our voices need to be heard.”
Dorothy Sewe, an immigrant from Kenya, joined demonstrators chanting “justice for Patrick” across Grand Rapids.
“There’s so much going on in this city that we have to fight,” Sewe said. “We are tired of fighting. Because, will they listen to us?”
She moved here in 2001 and says change is long overdue.
“Something is going on America,” she said. “We never knew that there was something going on here. I tell my kids, if I knew this was going to be like this, I would’ve remained in my country to die.”
“When they killed Michael Brown, one of my grandkids asked me, mama will police kills us?” Sewe added. “And I said, ‘why?’” He said, ‘because we are black.’ So my grandkids think they will be killed by police because they are black.”
Protests are expected to continue through the weekend.
“We’re gonna continue to stand out here as long as it takes, day and night, rain or shine,” Pearson said. “A couple of nights ago we were out here in the rain pouring. None of us cared. We were all here for the same reasons and that’s to make sure justice is served, justice is given to Patrick.”