GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Looking back at the civil unrest that unfolded a year ago, the day began with a peaceful protest downtown that would eventually turn violent.
Several hundred people showed up to a planned peaceful protest in the middle of downtown Grand Rapids at 6 p.m. on May 30, in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
“The vast majority of people were down here for a peaceful protest. Embed with them though, I believe, there were groups that were intended on doing exactly what they did, create civil unrest,” GRPD Chief Eric Payne told FOX 17 in a sit-down this week.
As more people started to arrive downtown, the sun went down, and the energy in the air intensified, people started leaving the vicinity of Rosa Parks Circle and heading down the street to Grand Rapids police headquarters on Monroe Center.
Chief Payne says, “Our first indication that it became unlawful assembly was approximately 6, 7 o'clock that night when a group surrounded a few of our police cars, and officers had to be rescued from it.”
Police officers were stationed around the police department, and tensions eventually grew. The officers would soon have to be pulled out of the situation by backup.
Once officers had left, a small portion of the crowd began smashing out the department's windows and spray-painting the exterior walls. The windows of the Secretary of State office, attached to GRPD's building, were also smashed out soon after, and fires lit inside and out.
“It went on shortly thereafter, where businesses started to be broken into. At that point that turned to unlawful assembly, and more personnel was needed to address what was occurring.”
There were just six people arrested on the night of the civil unrest.
Grand Rapids police would later set up an online "portal" where anyone could submit photos or videos from the night in an effort to track down those responsible for the destruction.
Weeks after that, they released several rounds of potential suspects to the media in an effort to identify them.
“I think it was awakening for everyone," Chief Payne told FOX 17.
"Again, building those relationships, and we're going to do that through our strategic plan, and implementing everything, the things that we've said we would do. We'd like to avoid such situations in the future.”