Recent demonstrations occurring throughout Kalamazoo as well as nationally and internationally tell us that our communities are angry and fed up. We are tired of witnessing the death of Black people at the hands of the police. We are tired of property and profit being valued over human life. We are tired of systems that continue to do harm. These issues are in no way new, however, the level of frustration is again rising and is evident in the joining together of people of all different walks of life, at times with little to no prior relationships or interactions, to take to the streets. Thousands of people in our community, from many different backgrounds, have started demonstrating, sacrificing their bodies, and speaking out in ways we frankly have not seen in recent history.
This moment of change has been building for generations and will be a unifying force for generations to come. This is a defining moment of transformation in our society and culture. Institutions must be accountable and begin the work of healing and change amongst its residents. However, we have a long way to go to bridge this divide. The recent use of excessive force on the youth of our community deepens the already open wounds of distrust in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. The subsequent curfew put in place attempts to limit the community’s voice and ability to peacefully assemble and protest, which prevents the collective grieving of the loss of Black lives at the hands of police.
These actions along with the militarization of policing locally only serve to further compound the trauma and community/police conflict. As National Guard and local police closed down streets to protect businesses and contain protesters, neighborhoods where Black residents reside were attacked and homes owned mostly by Black residents burned down. White nationalists roamed the streets making threats, while the harmful narrative persists that the communities of color as well as organizers are responsible for their own devastation. Centering shared humanity means that we must question how we as decision makers value the lives and livelihood of people of color vs law enforcement, whose fear and desire for security is centered, whose narrative is represented in the media, and whether our views and decisions value profit and property over lives.
Given these actions as well as the threat of hate crimes and domestic terror targeted disproportionally at people of color and Black people in particular, we ask our local officials to take these immediate action steps:
- Suspension of any excessive force used against peaceful protesters including the use of rubber bullets, riot gear, pepper spray, and physical contact.
- Require the use of properly working and activated body cameras by all law enforcement agencies interacting with the community.
- Ensure that all youth have a parent or legal guardian present when being detained, interrogated, and/or arrested by law enforcement.
- Exemption to any future curfew laws for legal observers, people experiencing homelessness, and people seeking medical attention (similar to the exemption that covers the press).
- Have an independent investigation done by an outside agency following any complaint related to law enforcement and community interactions during demonstrations.
- Have an independent investigation of the links between the recent acts of violence, vandalism and arson to known and emerging white nationalists/supremacists, hate groups, alt right, etc. and any potential connections to institutional and systems.
- Begin the process of learning about the history of people of color's cultural empowerment and resistance to racism in Kalamazoo.
While these actions are not comprehensive and will not solve the problem long term, we believe these are immediate ways to show good faith in our community and take a step forward in stopping the harm that has been done. We cannot heal as a community if this type of harm continues to happen. We as the TRHT partnership and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, are willing to support in the following ways, and encourage others to do so as well:
- Donating to the bail fund for individuals who have engaged in protests in Kalamazoo through Michigan Liberation https://secure.actblue.com/donate/blackmamasbailout.
- Supporting the recovery of those impacted by the fires on North Street and Stockbridge Avenue.
- Partnering with municipalities and organizations to do racial healing, anti-racism, and additional systemic change work.
- Over the coming days and weeks, explore new ways to advance transformation in the legal system along with our partners in the community.