GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Dozens marched down Breonna Taylor Way on Friday evening to protest GRPD’s hiring of former Kalamazoo Police Chief Karianne Thomas.
“No justice, No peace. No Justice, no peace,” they chanted as they made their way toward GRPD headquarters.
Justice For Black Lives, who organized the event, said that Thomas is not fit to be the department’s first ever chief of staff due to her mishandling of a protest in Kalamazoo in June 2020 when police used tear gas to disperse a crowd. Then, in August, police did not intervene when fights broke out during a Proud Boys rally in the downtown area.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the Proud Boys as a hate group. Her contract was terminated a month later.
“We have been out here for almost a year straight,” Justice for Black Lives president Aly Bates said into a bullhorn while standing in front of GRPD’s doors. “Every week we have been out here demanding that the Grad Rapids Police Department give us our money and put it into our community, so we can benefit from it.”
Since GRPD hired Thomas in early June, FOX 17 has discovered that she continues to receives severance pay from KDPS and will earn over $100,000 annually with GRPD in her new role.
The event lasted for a few hours Friday evening. Veteran Andrew Tuinstra, who served in the Army, said he attended because he wanted to hear their message.
However, he said no one wanted to listen or talk. He considers that to be the main problem between the community and local police.
“If you can’t talk with the people that are angry or supposed to be on the opposite side of the aisle, and have conversations with them, you can never win,” he said.
Prior to the event, FOX 17 reached out to Kalamazoo community activist Aerick Burton who said via email: “Harboring & abetting racists seems to be a trend that KDPS & apparently GRPD refuse to take accountability for. They continue to show us that not only do they not care that their institutions are inherently racist & misogynistic, but they also continue to show us that they refuse change. This is what they are. This is what we pay for. It’s disgraceful and very unsettling.”
The activists and protesters believe the best step forward is for Thomas to be let go before she begins on June 28.
“No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace,” they chanted as they marched away.