Young activists protest racism and police brutality in Grand Rapids ‘Kids March’
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Some of West Michigan’s youngest activists took to the streets of Grand Rapids on Saturday morning to share their pleas for racial equality and police reform.
The “Justice for Black Lives: Kids March” took families through downtown Grand Rapids and was followed by snacks, face painting and a dance party on Saturday June 20.
The protest provided an opportunity for the children of Grand Rapids to participate in nationwide protests against police brutality – but in a safe and friendly manner.
“We’ve had a lot of protests and gatherings that are more focused on adults, but they’re not always the best place to bring their kids, especially those 12 and under,” said Rori Harris, co-leader of the event. “We felt it was important for them to be able to make their voices heard and to be a part of this story.”
For many families, the gathering provided an opportunity to teach their young children about systemic inequalities in a child-friendly way.
Grand Rapids resident Susan Karanja said she marched on Saturday to create a better world for her young son.
“My husband moved here when he was 12 and I witness the racism he faces every day and I don’t want my 10 month old son Malachi to grow up in this world,” Karanja said.
Siblings Hayilee and Tarinady Lewis shared their views on racial equality simply, “Be nice”.
“The color doesn’t matter, you should just be nice to everyone,” said Tarinady Lewis, 7.
“We want to inspire people to know that it doesn’t matter your race or color, whatever your personality,” said Hayilee Lewis, 9.
The Saturday morning protest was a family extension of a march the night before in Grand Rapids, titled “March for Black Lives! March for unity! “
Cries of “No Justice, No Peace” and “Black Lives Matter” filled the streets surrounding Rosa Parks Circle on Friday, June 19, as participants protested against police violence on the same day as Juneteenth, a day National Council to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.
Protests have erupted across the country in recent weeks after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
His death sparked protests and riots across the country, including in Grand Rapids, on police brutality and systemic racism, and sparked a movement to change the way American cities are monitored.
Protesters and activist groups said they were happy with the Grand Rapids Police Department, which announced plans to ban strangulation, intensify efforts to emphasize de-escalation techniques and strengthen relationships with the community.
However, Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne said friday he fears that the budget cuts in his ministry, discussed by some residents and elected officials, will undermine the security of the community.
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