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Kalamazoo police release video and body-cam footage of Proud Boys rally

Proud Boys rally Kalamazoo August 15, 2020
Posted at 4:38 PM, Sep 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-08 18:41:39-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety shared video and body-cam footage today of last month's Proud Boys march and counter protest.

During a news conference, police walked through a 25-page summary of the events on Aug. 15 after a "top-down review of the city's response."

The review also includes eyewitness accounts, social media posts and other sources.

Chief Karianne Thomas said the review shows the department several areas where it can improve.

Assistant Chief Vernon Coakley added that their findings indicate "most" people were lawful and "some" were not.

Watch (WARNING: Graphic content):

At one point, you can see the Proud Boys flashing the "white power" symbol to cameras as the hate group makes their way through downtown Kalamazoo.

“Every incident we look back at, and we always see things that we would have done different,” Thomas said.

Police explained they made the conscious decision to not have a visible presence on the day, with 111 officers waiting. They wouldn't call it a mistake directly and said hindsight is always 20/20.

"We made a decision that day in this operational plan, and as we look forward, we use lessons learned from all the protests across the country,” Thomas said.

Police said a man protesting the Proud Boys' presence started the violence by throwing a frozen cup at the group.

The group responded with pepper spray, and things escalated from there due to their strategy to hang back.

“We knew there would be a slight delay moving in,” Thomas said.

Police pointed the finger at protest organizers, who police said told them to "hang back in the air conditioning" and that their group was much larger and armed – things they weren't expecting.

“We never anticipated that we would have the Michigan Defense League there, with armed rifles and weapons and face-off with whatever the Proud Boys had in mind,” Thomas said.

Thomas said all in all, this is exactly what the Proud Boys wanted by coming to Kalamazoo.

"I think if we walked through the protest and showed you the evidence we have, there was pepper spray out there, there was batons, there was frozen cups, there was rocks that were out there that day," Thomas said.

"The Proud Boys came to town and wanted to cause a stir, and they were very successful. They were very successful in using their words to upset people and that's why we wanted them out of town."