Protest response in D.C. has echos of Kalamazoo’s policing problems

BLM protests were met with tear gas and rubber bullets, while far-right violence was unhindered. That may sound familiar to Kalamazoo residents.

Black Lives Matter protests over the summer of 2020 were wide-ranging and variable. The death of George Floyd at the hands of police prompted millions to take to the streets in cities across America to call for accountability.

Those protests were often met with asymmetric force. Police and National Guard forces countered protesters with pepper spray, flash grenades, and rubber bullets.

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Fast-forward a few months, and a rally by a right-wing mob in Washington D.C. was met with … not much. The rally turned violent, resulting in several deaths.

The parallel treatment of protesters may cause residents of Kalamazoo to feel a sense of deja vu.

Kalamazoo was not immune to protests over police abuses. Those protests resulted in a curfew being called, with officers in riot gear and Michigan National Guards soldiers patrolling the streets. That was in early June.

In August, a rally by the neo-fascist group the Proud Boys ended in violence. Public safety officers were instructed to take a “hands-off” approach to the rally, which allowed the extremist group to roam freely before clashing with counter-protesters.

The disparate responses angered many local residents and led to the chief of public safety being fired.

Many people are upset about the way police have handled the two different groups of protesters – both in Kalamazoo and in the U.S. Capitol.

“The elephant in our common living room is knowing that if the people storming the Capitol Building were Black, they would have been met with a large pre-coordinated police presence, violent restraint, large numbers arrested immediately, and quite possibly shot,” wrote the anti-discrimination group the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion in a statement.

Closer to home, Kalamazoo County Commission Vice Chair Tami Rey also called out the actions of security forces.

“Let’s not pretend like we’re surprised that this act of terrorism is being allowed. Where’s the national guard, where’s the rubber bullets,” she wrote on Facebook.

For its part, the City of Kalamazoo is working to correct its policing issues. Commissioners hired an outside group to investigate the Department of Public Safety‘s response to protests in 2020. They’re holding a pair of public input sessions this month to hear from people who were present for either incident.

The first is Monday evening at 6pm.

We’ll have to wait and see what the rest of the nation’s response is.

You can read more on MLive.

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