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WATCH: Justice for Black Lives discusses arrests made during weekend protest

Posted at 12:17 PM, Nov 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-22 14:54:37-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Justice for Black Lives held a press conference Monday to discuss arrests made by Grand Rapids police during a protest over the weekend.

The Grand Rapids Police Department said the arrests were not tied to the protest — which was being held after the not-guilty verdict in the Rittenhouse case — but JFBL disagreed.

RELATED: Dozens gather in Grand Rapids to protest Kyle Rittenhouse verdict

Watch their press conference here:

The Grand Rapids Police Department issued its statement Monday afternoon, saying the arrests were made because of outstanding warrants:

On Friday, November 19, 2021, the Grand Rapids Police Department learned that a local organization scheduled a free speech event/protest for Saturday, November 20, 2021, at 6:00 PM. Previous events by the organization have included various ordinance violations, openly displayed firearms and a failure to follow lawful orders by officers. Events involving firearms, legally carried or not, necessitate having officers on stand-by to respond.

Due to these factors, and in preparation for the event, the GRPD deployed additional personnel to ensure the safety of protesters, attendees and the community. In addition officers were prepared to enforce lawful ordinances in order to maintain the tranquility of the neighborhood. As in all past such events, the agency’s goal was to help provide for the participation in the 1st Amendment, while maintaining the peace and safety of the community required under state and local laws.

Officers assigned to the event were aware that two subjects, who often attend the organization’s protests, had outstanding warrants for their arrests. These charges stemmed from a previous event and one of the subjects had been armed at the time. This event held on November 20, 2021, was relatively peaceful and did not require any enforcement by the GRPD.

After the event was concluded, and the attendees were leaving, officers recognized the two subjects that had the outstanding warrants for their arrests. One subject was walking on Pearl Street NW when officers approached him to make the arrest. Other attendees, who were carrying long guns, ran towards the scene with what appeared to officers as an intent to interfere in the lawful arrest. One of the subjects, who was also later arrested, ensured his rifle magazine was seated property and racked a round into the chamber.

In response to this escalation by attendees, members of the Special Response Team (SRT) responded to the scene and assisted with taking the suspect into custody. The subjects with the firearms then walked away from the area. Officers observed the previously described subject who had a warrant for his arrest. Officers observed which vehicle he entered after stowing his long gun in the trunk.

Due to the presence of at least one firearm, a high-risk traffic stop was conducted and all occupants were ordered out of the vehicle. The subject with the warrant was taken into custody. Both subjects were lodged at the Kent County Correctional Facility and the other occupants of the vehicle were released at the scene.

During all encounters the GRPD personnel performed their duties with professionalism and respect. No one within the group was targeted or harassed for any personal characteristic. The goal of the department’s deployment of personnel to free speech events is to ensure the safety of everyone involved. The subjects arrested face no additional charges at this time, other than the charges under their original outstanding warrants.

The men and women of the Grand Rapids Police Department will continue to enforce the law in a just and equitable manner. The response by officers at this event was necessary due to the presence of firearms and the actions of those who wished to interfere with police operations. The agency will continue to provide resources for the safe and peaceful participation in free speech events and protests in order to keep everyone out of harm's way.