GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids has extended its state of civil emergency, issued after rioters damaged more than 100 buildings and set fires to several police cruisers Saturday, through June 16.
During a meeting Tuesday evening, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and City Manager Mark Washington successfully convinced most of the commission members that extending the order was a good idea. The commission voted 5-2 to extend the state of civil emergency.
The decision doesn’t bring back the curfew, but it does give city officials the power to do so if needed.
During the meeting, Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Eric Payne and his deputy chiefs said the state of civil emergency gives law enforcement the tools they need to keep the community safe.
“By having the ability to declare the state at that time, it would allow us the flexibility to call on other resources to address the situation at the time,” Payne said.
Those resources include the ability to reenact a city curfew or call in backup from other agencies like the Michigan National Guard, which arrived after Saturday night’s riot downtown and then packed up and left town Tuesday.
With more protests planned for this week in Grand Rapids — including one Wednesday in which Payne will participate — police have expressed concerns about overworking their already exhausted force.
“I can tell you from a staffing standpoint it’s very challenging,” Deputy Chief David Kiddle said. “The hours our officers are working are fatiguing them, as well as the concern for their own safety as well as the safety of the community that we’re trying to protect.”
Earlier in the day, asked to approve extending the emergency order even though Bliss can do it alone under the city charter, commissioners had expressed concerns — particularly about the curfew.
“We have been under the governor’s executive order for I don’t know how many weeks now,” Third Ward Commissioner Senita Lenear said at a Virtual Committee of the Whole meeting in the morning. “And as we’re are finally getting to the point where the governor is lifting that, then the local body, the local municipality now has a curfew. I still believe that with the proper conversations, especially a public discussion like this, and a press release and all the information that has gone out, telling those of us who are neighbors and friends and businesses who are a part of this community, this isn’t the way to handle this, I think they are responding to that.”
Lenear criticized the original order issued Sunday.
But Washington answered that criticism with a story about his personal experience from Saturday night. Washington was inside police headquarters on Monroe Center when it appeared an angry mob was trying to take the building.
“It was unbelievable. It was horrific!” Washington told commissioners during the morning meeting. “I was firsthand, on the ground level, where officers were stacked like a human wall, back to back. A lot of resources were in the police department to make sure we would not be taken over like what happened in Minneapolis and burned to the ground.”
The concerns went beyond the risk to the officers and civilians inside police headquarters.
“We don’t have multiple stations. That was it. And once we lose police command headquarters, we have lost that city. And it would have gone on for a lot longer,” Washington said. “So that was the mindset that we were reacting to when we made that decision. We made a desperate decision because we were in a desperate situation and we needed to get control of our city.”
All but Third Ward Commissioner Nathaniel Moody said two nights of curfew were enough.
“For the first two days that it’s been in place, it was the correct call. We needed a moment of pause after the peaceful events on Saturday evening turned into an event of violence and destruction,” said First Ward Commissioner Jon O’Connor. “However, I do think that now, we’ve had a moment to pause and a moment to kind of recoup and gather ourselves, I’m not in favor of keeping the curfew extended.”
Despite the criticism, Bliss stood by her decision to declare the state of emergency.
GRPD had set up an online portal for people to submit photos and video of the riot to help police find the people who damaged property. It said Tuesday that it had gotten more than 20,000 submissions and was closing the portal while investigators pored through them. If you have information you want to share with investigators, you can still call GRPD’s Detective Unit at 616.456.3380 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.