On Sunday May 31st and Sunday June 7th, groups of Grand Rapids area residents gathered at Old Central School to demonstrate and protest the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis. The group was peaceful and respectful of each other and the area around them. Most wore masks and practiced social distancing to try and remain safe from COVID-19. I was there both days. I believe it’s important to speak out against racism and discrimination in all forms. Black lives matter.

I’m proud of Grand Rapids for standing up for justice and doing it as safely as possible.

I’d like to thank the Grand Rapids Police Department and Itasca County Sheriff’s Department for keeping watch to keep protestors safe. I appreciate the police department’s willingness to work with and talk to those demonstrating, and the long hours our law enforcement spent ready to step in and stop any outside influences hoping to escalate or incite violence.

Some area businesses chose to close as precaution on May 31st, which led to a flurry of rumors on social media. I saw many of them in my own newsfeed. Those posts caused alarm and fear in many Grand Rapids residents, including me. I’d like to caution folks to question posts like this before sharing and consider whether or not it comes from a credible source.

There was no rioting or property damage in Grand Rapids as a result of these demonstrations, and no out of town protestors came to create chaos.

Causing fear and panic and making threats makes life worse for everyone, but may especially effect people of color in Grand Rapids, who could face backlash. There are people of color here, and racism exists, even here.

If you are a person of color in Grand Rapids and you feel unsafe because of this or at any other time, please reach out to me or the Grand Rapids Police Department. If you’re not comfortable talking to the police I can go with you or be on a phone call with you.

It’s a scary time right now, I get it. It’s hard to know what or who to believe and everyone is on edge. It’s possible to both be outraged at the way people of color are treated in the United States, and worried or scared about riots. This all comes on top of an unprecedented global pandemic. It’s hard to know what to think or feel. All I can offer is to be careful. Look out for yourselves and your neighbors. Be the kind of person you want to see in our community.

Stay safe, Grand Rapids.

You can reach the GRPD at 218-326-3464, or police@cityofgrandrapidsmn.com.

You can reach me at mtoven@ci.grand-rapids.mn.us, or send me a message if you would like my phone number.

Michelle Toven

Grand Rapids City Council

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