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Protests turn violent in Grand Rapids and Detroit; Flint and others stay peaceful

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.

Around 12:30 a.m., people set fire to a line of cars in downtown Grand Rapids. Several other police cruisers were set ablaze around the city.


In Detroit, police skirmished with protesters for a second straight night on Saturday. 

Detroit police fired tear gas into a crowd after being pelted with rocks, bottles and M-80 firecrackers near Detroit police headquarters. The unrest also happened after a peaceful protest in the city earlier in the day.

There were no reports of significant injury in either city.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig says the department supports the reason behind the protest: anger at the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But he says he won’t tolerate attacks on public safety in Detroit. 

Earlier in the day on Saturday, city officials said a small number of out-of-towners were responsible for the violence on Friday night.

On Saturday night, Craig said some people came into the city again with the intention of being violent.

“We support the issue. We want to continue to work with you and allow you the freedom to do so. But you’re not going to impugn, not going to have an impact on public safety.  It’s not going to happen,” said Craig.

Craig said some people brought ice chests containing bricks.

Detroit police arrested more than 20 people on Saturday night. 

The unrest in Grand Rapids and Detroit stood in stark contrast to what happened in Flint on Saturday night, where anti-police brutality marchers were joined by Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson. 

Swanson walked and talked with the protesters as they made their way along one of Flint’s major roads during the peaceful evening march.

Swanson says police have to know “they are part of the community.”

Sarah Hulett and Sarah Cwiek contributed reporting to this story. 

Vincent Duffy has been news director at Michigan Public since May 2007.
Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’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 Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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