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Grand Rapids

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The wife of Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden was campaigning for her husband in Michigan Tuesday.

Jill Biden toured a food pantry in Grand Rapids and met with military family members in Battle Creek. 

At the home of former congressman Joe Schwarz, Biden promised her husband would support military families struggling with deployments, health care and COVID-19.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

City leaders in Grand Rapids say they’re not yet ready to talk about ways to defund the police department.

Instead, the focus is on a new strategic plan for the department which was presented to commissioners Tuesday.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

After hearing more than four hours worth of comments from the public and debating amongst themselves past midnight, Grand Rapids city commissioners did not make any dramatic changes to the police department budget.

Commissioners did vote on an amendment to the city’s budget which will result in a reduction of nearly $400,000 to the police department’s budget this year. Those changes will move the Oversight and Public Accountability Department out of the Grand Rapids Police Department, and increase its staffing. The amendment will also create a new civilian assistant director for the police department, a new communications manager and reduce costs by cutting overtime and supplies, among other changes.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids police officer unions are pushing back on calls to defund the department.

Three city commissioners in Grand Rapids have already said they support cutting the Grand Rapids Police Department’s budget by $9.4 million in the upcoming fiscal year.

The police officer’s union says a cut of that size would almost certainly mean layoffs for dozens of police officers.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

At least three commissioners in Grand Rapids signaled support for cutting the police department budget during a meeting on Tuesday morning. But because of a rare provision in the city’s charter, those cuts would be limited.

In 1995, voters in Grand Rapids approved a provision to require that at least 32% of the city’s general fund must go toward police services.

Emergency room hospital
Pixabay

Today on Stateside, a conversation with a community activist in Grand Rapids looking to defund the police and what that would entail. Plus, four nurses have filed a lawsuit against the parent company of DMC and Sinai-Grace over what they say was negligence and mismanagement that led to unnecessary COVID-19 deaths.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Grand Rapids once again Friday, but this time it was to honor one of the city’s own.

Breonna Taylor was killed by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky in March, just a few months shy of her 27th birthday. Taylor was in her own room, in the middle of the night, when officers shot her while carrying out a “no knock” warrant looking for someone else.

Earlier this week, Louisville banned “no knock” warrants through legislation now known as “Breonna’s Law.”

Nathália Rosa / Unsplash

Today on Stateside, we’ll check in with former Michigan Radio reporter Bryce Huffman, who started working for BridgeDetroit—a newsroom made up entirely of people of color—just days before George Floyd was killed by police and Black Lives Matter protests took hold across the globe. Also, a conversation with a Detroit radio journalist about the music that made the city an indelible part of punk history.

(Subscribe to Stateside on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or with this RSS link)

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The city of Grand Rapids is facing calls to re-open the 2021 budget to cut funding for police.

The city finalized its budget less than a month ago. That budget included cuts to many departments, including police, because of an expected shortfall in revenue.

But now a number of people in the city want the Grand Rapids Police Department’s budget cut even further.

Brian Jennings stands at the front of a crowd of protesters who marched through Grand Rapids Wednesday.
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids officials told residents the city is commited to implementing changes to make policing more accountable, and safer for residents, in an online update forum on Friday.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Update: Brian Jennings was arrested by Grand Rapids police Thursday afternoon. The Kent County Prosecutor's office initially told Michigan Radio Jennings was charged with destruction of property separately from the destruction that happened in the downtown core on Saturday night. Since then, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker says additional charges have been filed for rioting, breaking and entering and destruction of property at 82 Ionia on Saturday. The Kent County Prosecutors office is located in the building. 

Hundreds of angry people with no leader, and no plan.

A city, and a police department, on edge.

That was Grand Rapids again last night, less than a week after protests downtown turned to destruction and looting.

But last night, things turned out differently.

Zac A. Clark / Clark Camera

After days of protest, there are signs of progress in many parts of Michigan today.

Kent County law enforcement leaders, including Grand Rapids police chief Eric Payne, joined protesters in Grand Rapids Wednesday afternoon, kneeling and chanting “I can’t breathe.”

Marcel Fable Price sitting on a set of stairs in a hoodie and khakis
Courtesy of Marcel "Fable" Price

Marcel “Fable” Price is poet laureate of Grand Rapids. He’s also the executive director of The Diatribe, a youth-focused performing arts nonprofit in Grand Rapids. He recently put out a statement about the protests against excessive police force happening here in Michigan and beyond. It read to us more like an essay, or dare we say, poetry. Listen below to hear Marcel share his thoughts on this moment in America. 


an open sign in a shop window
Mike Petrucci / Unsplash

Today on Stateside, we spoke with activists who organized some of this week's protests in Detroit and Grand Rapids. Plus, Governor Whitmer rolled back some significant restrictions on business and gatherings yesterday which was a huge relief for some, but left many with huge gray areas about how commerce and social life will go forward.

(Subscribe to Stateside on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or with this RSS link)

Listen to the full show above or find individual segments below.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Update: The Grand Rapids City Commission met Tuesday and discussed the events of Saturday night. The mayor and city commissioners decided not to extend the city's 7 p.m. curfew. The full meeting is available online here.

I walked the streets of my city on the night of mayhem Saturday, and witnessed the destruction. I saw the fires burning in the street. I heard the sound of glass shattering, of people cheering. I felt the warmth from a fire as it swallowed a police vehicle on a quiet intersection.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Two Michigan cities are imposing curfews after clashes between police and protesters this weekend.

Detroit and Grand Rapids have been rocked by vandalism and violence after rallies against police brutality against black people.

Detroit's curfew will begin at 8 p.m., and lift at 5 a.m.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

What started out as a large peaceful protest in Grand Rapids against police violence during the day on Saturday turned chaotic at night and into the early hours of Sunday morning. Police fired tear gas at the protesters, trying to break up the group. The group broke up into many smaller groups, but then went throughout downtown smashing windows, looting stores and setting many police cruisers on fire.

Wave card being used on a bus in Grand Rapids
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Bus service is expanding in Grand Rapids, to meet an expected rise in ridership as more people venture out of their homes.

The Rapid bus service cut back on its routes in March, then increased frequency of a handful of high-demand routes in April to allow for social distancing on the bus.

Starting Tuesday, service will resume on all but one route in the city, though most routes won’t be running as often on weekdays as they did before the pandemic.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The city of Grand Rapids plans a hiring freeze and budget cuts of $13 million because of the economic fallout from the coronavirus. And the city could be forced to cut even deeper if state and city revenues continue to fall.

City Manager Mark Washington announced the changes during a city commission meeting this morning. The preliminary plan calls for $540 million in city spending during the next fiscal year, compared to $553 million for the current budget.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

People in Grand Rapids will get their first look this week at the city’s projected budget for the coming year.

City manager Mark Washington is scheduled to update commissioners on the city commission Tuesday morning, and there’s a digital town hall scheduled for residents on Thursday night.

The new fiscal year starts in July.

Joe Biden at podium
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke about the importance of community healthcare in his visit to Grand Rapids Monday.

With support from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Biden says helping former President Barack Obama establish the Affordable Care Act was one of his crowning achievements as Vice President.

Man speaking to students in classroom
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

A progressive advocacy group is urging young adults of color in Grand Rapids to register and vote in the upcoming primary election.

Wesley Watson is the West Michigan Regional Organizing Director for NextGen America, a nonprofit political advocacy group that focuses on progressive candidates and ballot initiatives.

four of the drag queens from MI Drag brunch
Michigan Drag Brunch

On Sunday mornings, the West Michigan brunch scene gets served a meal full of realness, thanks to the drag queens of Michigan Drag Brunch. The project is the brainchild of producer and CEO Trevor Straub and performer Gabriella Galore. They said the project started as a way to bring the drag scene to an earlier morning crowd in Grand Rapids.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss at a podium
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss delivered her fifth State of the City address in Grand Rapids Tuesday night.

Bliss spoke about successes of the last year including the city’s booming real estate market, investment in city parks and continued partnerships between city officials and neighborhood groups.

Caroline Cook standing on conrer talking to people
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Tour groups in Grand Rapids are braving the cold weather to learn about the city’s black history.

This tour focuses on civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks, and the works of famous black painters like Paul Collins.

customer smelling marijuana at counter
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

The city of Grand Rapids now has its first medical marijuana dispensary.

The grand opening of Fluresh on the city’s Southwest side Friday came more than two months after the state’s first recreational marijuana shops opened.

courtesy Tiberius Images and The Right Place Inc.

Michigan’s second-largest city is taking aim at the Second City.

Leaders for The Right Place, Inc., a non-profit economic development firm for the Grand Rapids area, announced a new three-year strategic plan on Wednesday. The plan sets a goal of supporting more than half a billion dollars in new investment and more than five thousand jobs. One way the organization hopes to reach those goals: by attracting businesses from Chicago.

Amplify GR development plans
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

A DeVos Foundation-backed non-profit group is bringing a development proposal to the Grand Rapids city planning commission on Thursday. Some residents are excited but they also have concerns.

Protesters standing with signs
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

More than 150 protesters gathered in downtown Grand Rapids as part of a national climate strike Friday.

They want Senator Gary Peters and other Democrats to commit to the Green New Deal.

public domain / Wikimedia Commons

Candidates running to unseat Congressman Justin Amash will debate Monday night in Grand Rapids.

Amash left the Republican Party earlier this year, after calling for an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump.

Amash is running for re-election as an independent, and several people are now running against him.

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