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GR museum preserves riot items; police chief reflects on progress

Posted at 6:31 AM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 06:31:46-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.  — We all remember the protests that broke out around the United States in response to the death of George Floyd.

That includes here in Grand Rapids where dozens of buildings were damaged.

The Grand Rapids Police Department says it has spent the last year working to gain the trust of the public.

At the same time, the Grand Rapids Public Museum is collecting the boards that were used to cover broken windows, as a piece of history.

“What we had the night of May 30 was not that it started out as a peaceful protest, it quickly evolved into a situation where a lot of lives were put in danger. There was a lot of property destruction,” says Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne.

That destruction was quickly covered up by plywood boards, which ended up serving as a canvas for local artists.

"It wasn't the prettiest of situations, but it's important for people to be informed about the history of our city to educate themselves on the things that are happening and to hopefully start those conversations that are typically avoided so that we can progress towards a better future for people of all backgrounds,” says Alee'a Cherry, marketing manager at GRPM.

The boards are now on display.

Chief Payne says he has worked to implement change within the department and says the protests impacted everyone.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum says this was a perfect opportunity to preserve history while giving a voice to those who are often voiceless.

“We saw that as a perfect opportunity to not only diversify our collections to showcase Grand Rapids history -- things that are happening here -- but to also amplify black and brown voices and to provide them with a platform to express their opinions to express their passions and their hurt,” says Cherry.

The museum is still actively collecting donations to add to its permanent collection.

The new exhibit is located on the second floor of the GRPM and is included with general admission.