Hundreds of people took to the streets in Grand Rapids this week after a Grand Rapids police officer fatally shot Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man, earlier this month.
“It has been a tough situation and a traumatizing situation,” said Jimmy Barwan, Lyoya’s older brother, who was present at the peaceful protests Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Just out of nowhere, getting information that he’s gone. He’s not alive no more. It really hurts us. That’s my brother. You know, he had a dream. He just recently got his new apartment. He was going to be cutting hair and basically trying to figure out something for himself. But out of nowhere, my brother is killed just like that,” Barwan said.
The Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) released several videos Wednesday showing the officer shooting Lyoya in the head on April 4. The four videos are from the officer’s body-worn camera, an in-car camera, a home surveillance system and a cell phone recording.
Protesters are calling on the police department to do more.
Specifically, their demands are for the police department to name and arrest the officer who killed Lyoya, change their policing policies in Black neighborhoods, put the officer on unpaid leave until the end of the investigation and to release all unedited videos of the shooting.
GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom said Wednesday the department has released all the videos they have and blurred some of the video for privacy of the neighbors and to blur graphic content. All audio in the videos is unedited, Winstrom said.
However, Barwan said during Wednesday’s protest that their father saw a different video than the videos the police released.
Many Grand Rapids residents have been calling for GRPD to improve its de-escalation training and calling for the city to defund the department for years. This demand has grown louder since the summer 2020 protests in Grand Rapids and cities across the country calling for justice for George Floyd, a 45-year-old African American man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who pinned his knee on Floyd’s neck.
“We know these things are going to happen, but regardless of that, nothing can prepare you for the feeling of it happening,” said Aly, chair of the Royal Black Panther Party of Grand Rapids, which has been organizing the protests, who asked to not be identified by her last name for safety reasons.
“I didn’t want to be right. None of us did,” Aly said. “We wanted people to actually listen. We hoped that people were actually going to listen to us. I should have never come to the point where Patrick lost his life.”
In preparation of protests, many businesses in downtown Grand Rapids boarded up their windows after there was some damage during the 2020 Floyd demonstrations.
The protests over Lyoya’s killing have been peaceful and nonviolent. The police have not taken much action at these protests, other than after a few people were at the top of the GRPD building and a few officers came out of the department for a few minutes during Wednesday’s protest.
But now, many in the Grand Rapids community want to see real change.
“This could have been me,” said Darius Thomas, a 35-year-old Black man from Grand Rapids, who said he was recently pulled over by a police officer who claimed Thomas was speeding.
Thomas said he was compliant during the traffic stop and asked the officer if he could speak with a sergeant. That’s when the police officer busted out his car windows. Thomas recorded the interaction with the police officer and shared it with the Advance, which confirmed his account.
“Who can we talk to? We have to get together like this in order for somebody to die so that something can be done,” Thomas said. “If you’re in our community, we are supposed to be able to trust you with our lives. If you pull us over and ask us questions, we don’t know if we’re gonna die.”
Barwan and other activists said they want justice for Lyoya, his family and the entire Black community in Grand Rapids.
“That’s what we’re fighting here today. We’re fighting for justice. We are fighting for justice for all of us. Not just my brother. Because at the end of the day we are all human beings,” Barwan said.
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