What I saw in Downtown Kalamazoo last night was police violence

6:12am- Tuesday June 2nd, 2020

After hearing reports from both the city of kalamazoo police chief and the kalamazoo county sheriff that there were ‘credible threats of violence and looting in downtown kalamazoo’ yesterday, I went downtown to see what was going on. I rode my bike downtown at 4pm. Pretty much empty and silent. Rode my bike through downtown at 930pm. Pretty much empty and silent. A few dozen protestors remain at the corner of Michigan and Rose. Completely peaceful and powerful protest happening.

At 10:30pm or so I start to walk from my house to downtown. As I get back downtown to Michigan and Rose, there are still a handful of protestors. Totally peaceful. What’s new to the situation is a band of cars circling around downtown, around bronson park, cutting through academy behind the courthouse. Just driving totally out of control. The wrong way, to fast, to close to people. bizarre behavior. There are no police anywhere to be seen. This seems odd to me, especially given the police’s warnings, the cars driving so recklessly seem out of place. Where are the police?

I take a loop around downtown kalamazoo. Through Bronson Park to the Kalamazoo Mall. It is quiet and mostly empty. Still really bizarre and dangerous car traffic buzzing all around downtown and honking though. So it would be quite and then a band of cars would honk and drive through, and then quiet again. Not a lot of people on the mall walking at all. While on the mall, i saw a van full of 4 white dudes, out of state plates. They are creeping slowly down the mall, they roll down their windows: “Black lives Matter.. You’re with us or you’re against us”. They bust out laughing and drive off. I immediately think: that did not seem right. Something’s amiss here. I run into my friend Kat and another friend of hers who also saw the van and said they tried to snap a photo of the license because the dudes seemed so creepy. I say this not to say there was only vans and trucks of white dudes downtown, but there was, at least at 10:30–12:00pm or so, a bunch of trucks and vans full of white dudes downtown circling around. I saw them myself. Who were these folks?

I also see two large unmarked white vans driving around downtown. I had heard rumors, from the police, of bus fulls of people coming to incite violence and I wonder if these vans are that?

At 10:45p I’m headed home, at the edge of downtown and I see this tweet about broken windows at the courthouse. It seems…. Suspicious. I was just at the courthouse. People were not looting or breaking windows there.That flyer? Ahem, come on man….https://twitter.com/genevieveWWMT/status/1267650694653280256

I walk back to the courthouse. I arrive at the courthouse literally 4 minutes after this tweet was posted. It’s mostly quiet. Still some protestors on the south west corner of michigan and rose. In fact, besides cars driving absolutely out of control around the courthouse, things seem pretty calm, protestors are doing their thing. There are no police anywhere to be seen. I’m thinking, if someone just threw a brick through the window of the courthouse, and the police have been waiting for violence in downtown all day.. Where are the police?

Things simmer for a few minutes. I’m watching these cars just drive through downtown honking, some circling around, going the wrong way. Really bizarre and scary behavior. There’s all sorts of people in the cars, definitely some people protesting and definitely a bunch of something else. No police anywhere.

What happens next is 3 police SUV’s pull over a suburban with Black folks in it. I am standing on the opposite side of Michigan, in front of the courthouse. Where the police pull over the SUV is on the north side of Michigan Ave just west of Rose. This is literally directly across the street from the only real contingency of protestors in downtown currently. It is directly in front of the only business that had boarded up on Michigan Ave. This is a very weird spot to decide to pull someone out of car. Pretty clear what’s going to happen if you pull someone out of car directly in front of a protest about police violence. Isn’t it?

The police then proceed to pretty violently pull a Black man from the car and violently throw him on the ground. I’m thinking, what in the god names are the police thinking? Are they trying to start something? This is dumbest thing I have ever seen, it’s hard to believe they would be so stupid. A crowd begins to gather around the incident as people watch at least 6 police struggle and pin down a Black man. People start to yell at the police. This all happens within about 2 minutes. Next thing I know, I see the large unmarked white vans pull up… o shit, are these the looters? The van doors bust open and No! It’s the police in riot gear. They run up to the crowd and start macing people.

My friend Jo has a video of a lot of this happening he posted: https://www.facebook.com/jovaughan.head/videos/10101254494372129/

Another thing happening during all this is literal trucks full of white guys rolling by the scene, stopping traffic to take videos. They are hanging out of their cars, almost gleeful. I have a few pictures of this, although not great quality as it was at night and hectic.

Here’s one of the photo’s:

A truck full of white men stop traffic to hang from their truck and film the police violently arresting a Black man.

From there I watched downtown descend into chaos. Cars starting driving even more wild. Lots of people were justifiable upset at the unnecessary and violent behavior by the police.

The police ramped things up and started getting even more violent. My friend Matt has a couple hour video documenting his perspective on what went. It appears most or all of this video took place after the incidents I am describing above: https://www.facebook.com/mattmilcarek/videos/10159824200614112/. You can see for yourself a lot of what went on.

I don’t know what would of happened last night if the police hadn’t provoked violence, but I do know that the police provoked and caused violence in downtown kalamazoo last night. What they did was unnecessary and harmful and almost seems as if they wanted to start a fight.

I also want to be clear that I am not trying to minimize anyone’s justifiable rage, especially Black folks, by pointing out what I believe to be white supremacists mixing into the scene and stoking things up in the hours leading up to what happened. People have a right and reason to be enraged and protest. It was a really complex situation and I am still processing what I witnessed but I wanted to share my experience alongside what the news and the police stories.

Black Lives Matter. Defund the Police.

Cooperator. Bike rider.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store