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Grand Rapids passes new human rights ordinance

Grand Rapids city commissioners passed a new human rights ordinance to protect against discrimination in the city

The ordinance expands the group of people who can be considered a protected class.
It also creates up to a $500 fine for people who call the police on a member of a protected class, without a reasonable cause. The measure is meant to protect against biased police calls. 

Rosemary Brown told commissioners that’s needed.

“I mean if you can’t get things to stop, then you need to go for the money,” Brown said at the meeting Tuesday night.

Another resident, Robert Duthler says he’s worried the ordinance goes too far.

"This will hopefully impact those who have hate in their hearts," said police chief Eric Payne.

"I believe that the way we word this … discrimination can be weaponized against people who have an opposing point of view,” he said.  

In a release from the city, police chief Eric Payne downplayed those concerns.

“This will hopefully impact those who have hate in their hearts for whatever groups out there that solely call us to intervene in something that’s not criminal in nature,” Payne said, according to the release.

The vote on the ordinance had been delayed from earlier in the year because of concerns from residents.

When it came down to the vote last night, commissioners voted unanimously to approve it.

“At the end of the day, it’s not going to be perhaps pleasing to everybody,” said City Commissioner Joe Jones. “But I think it speaks volumes about the direction we’re trying to go and the direction we’re trying to lead.”

You can read the full ordinance here.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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