Hundreds protest police brutality at Capitol after police killing of George Floyd | Michigan Radio
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Hundreds protest police brutality at Capitol after police killing of George Floyd

May 31, 2020

This post was last updated Sunday, May 31st at 11:10 p.m.

Hundreds gathered at the Michigan State Capitol Sunday to protest the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who was killed after White Police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for minutes.

The Lansing protest was one of many across the country decrying police brutality toward Black people. The crowd chanted “Say his name,” “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “Black lives matter” as they protested the murder of George Floyd.

Many wore masks that read, “I can’t breathe” referencing the infamous police killing of Eric Garner in 2014.

Protesters marched around the capitol and through the streets of Lansing several times remaining peaceful throughout the majority of the day after violence had erupted Saturday night at protests in Detroit and Grand Rapids.

Protesters reconnect with another group of protesters who walked down Michigan Avenue and around Lansing several times on Sunday. The protest remained non-violent, skirting away from escalating tension with police several times and remained fluid throughout the day with people coming and going as they moved around Lansing and East Lansing.
Credit Abigail Censky / WKAR

Sena Elum came to protest with her friends. She said, she’s surprised it has taken so many police killings of Black people to yield protests like this.

“It took all of the rioting—the burning of cities all around the nation to wake up and realize that this is an issue and we need to fix it and it needs to change.”

She added, “I don’t think it should have went this far,” about protests that yielded clashes with police and property damage, “but if it has to then it has to,” said Elum.

The cities of Grand Rapids and Detroit have both instituted curfews Grand Rapids’ beginning at 7 p.m. and Detroit’s beginning at 8 p.m. Sunday night. Both curfews go through 5 a.m. Monday morning following violence over the weekend including protesters and journalists who were pepper sprayed.

The killing of Floyd in Minneapolis was a powder keg, coming shortly after a viral video showed Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery gunned down by two White men in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor, a Black emergency medical technician, was killed in her apartment by police—setting off days of protests and violence in cities all across the U.S.

Surra Elum, also attended the protest in Lansing with the group. He says, now is the time for a reckoning.

“We need to see systemic change. When police kill us they lose their jobs—we lose our lives. So, it’s very important that we see that people are, we’re getting justice,” said Elum.

He added he was worried about the Sunday protest turning violent, but he “hoped and prayed” the Lansing event would remain peaceful.

“We’re sick and tired of black people being murdered in the streets. The system needs to change or we will burn the system to the ground,” said Elum.

The Lansing protest briefly moved to East Lansing where the windshield of a police cruiser was smashed in, and the Ingham County Tactical Team awaited protesters before returning to the Capitol.

Both the Lansing Police Department and the East Lansing Police Department issued statements joining the crowd in opposing police brutality and condemning the death of George Floyd.

Later in the evening protesters returned to Lansing where they turned over a car, set it on fire and were dispersed by police with batons according to reporting by Sarah Lehr, a reporter with the Lansing State Journal.

Protesters later smashed the windows of Chase Bank before being tear-gassed by police ahead of the city instituting a 9 p.m. curfew as tensions escalated due to "violence and destruction of property occuring in downtown," according to a statement by the Michigan State Police.

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, who had previously condemned the death of George Floyd and praised Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey's firing of the officers responsible, later instituted a curfew. Schor appeared earlier in the day alongside Lansing Police to stand against "police brutality and racial injustice."

In a later statement, Schor added that the curfew was necessary because the situation had turned violent.

"I understand the frustration, the anger, and outrage, but I implore our residents to continue to demonstrate peacefully. The destruction of property will not solve our problems," added Lansing City Council President Peter Spadafore. The curfew will last until Monday June, 1 at 5 a.m.

After the curfew was announced police sent several more volleys of tear gas into the crowd as a smaller group of protesters smashed windows at the Boji tower, the Romney building, and several small businesses in downtown Lansing.