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Photographer recounts capturing 'viral' images of GR riots

Grand Rapids riots
Grand Rapids riots
Grand Rapids riots
Grand Rapids riots
Posted at 6:45 PM, May 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-30 23:05:53-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — After snapping pictures of a peaceful protest earlier in the day on May 30, 2020, Andy Visockis and his camera captured chaos as darkness fell and riots broke out in downtown Grand Rapids.

"It was weird hearing giant panes of glass being shattered and then the crowd cheering," Visockis recalled. "I just kind of started taking pictures of the people that were being disruptive... I kind of felt I probably should have a helmet of some sort on, because some people were just throwing things, especially close to police cars, or bricks at buildings."

His pictures documented the destruction as stores were broken into and police cruisers were set on fire.

"People were just jumping on top of the cop cars, smashing windows, throwing stop signs into the police cars and cruisers," he told FOX 17 News. "That was pretty unreal to experience that, in the town that I grew up in. I never would have imagined something like that would have happened here."

Visockis uploaded some of the most startling images online, where they quickly went viral.

"Instantly I was getting thousands and thousands of shares," he recounted. "It was nonstop—I actually turned my phone off for a few hours because it was constantly pinging...I still can't believe that so many thousands and thousands of people shared, liked, made comments on the photos in just the little speck of western Michigan, when you think about how big the world is."

And the photos helped capture more than just history: Visockis shared them with police, helping to bring several suspects to justice.

"I started getting emails from detectives from Wyoming, from Grand Rapids," Visockis explained. "I had to testify in court a few times... I think I was told from someone in the prosecutor's office, like eight to 11, somewhere in that ballpark, were either ID'd, questioned, prosecuted and charged and so on."

Despite risking his own safety to capture what was happening that night, Visockis said he had no regrets.

"If this happened again, I would definitely do it again," he said. "I felt offended like many of the other people that were standing next to me who were watching this, so I am glad that people are being held accountable for their actions."

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