Clean up starts after night of destruction and tear gas

At least 13 arrested following car burning, window breaking

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MONDAY, June 1 — Dozens of volunteers arrived early this morning to sweep debris from downtown streets after a protest against police brutality turned violent yesterday.

Most businesses that had windows shattered already had crews boarding up storefronts and assessing repairs. Others scrubbed graffiti like “Fuck 12” and “BLM” from windows and brick walls. A car that was burned in the middle of Washington Avenue had already been towed.

Police used tear gas to disperse protesters in downtown Lansing last night after they disobeyed an order to clear the streets. Thirteen were arrested, on charges that included arson, damage to property, vagrancy and resisting arrest, the Lansing Police Department said.

"Please vacate the streets. If you fail to vacate the streets, you will be arrested," police said repeatedly over downtown speakers as scores of protesters faced them in front of Comerica Bank at Washington Square and Michigan Avenue. The announcement cited an emergency curfew that was imposed at 9 a.m. until 5 a.m. today, per instructions from Mayor Andy Schor.

For a few minutes, there was a standoff as police in riot gear stood in a line across Washington on the south side of the traffic circle and other police with bicycles blocked the westbound lanes of Michigan at the circle.

Then came the tear gas, which was fired north on Washington. Police on foot and bikes pushed the protesters north on Washington then west on Ottawa Street to Capitol Avenue. There, the protesters seemed to disappear, aided by a power outage on the north side of the Capitol.

A handful of protesters were seen again on Washington Square south of Michigan. By 11 p.m., though, the streets seemed quiet as the speaker system kept repeating the curfew announcement.

That ended some six hours of vandalism on Washington and Michigan.

Earlier, a peaceful protest turned ugly late in the day when protesters burned a car on Washington Square just south of Michigan and police used tear gas to disburse them. The Lansing Police Department said today that the trouble began when "rioters attempted to assault a female in a vehicle on the 100 block of S. Washington Ave." Rioters threw bottles and rocks at Michigan State Police troopers who tried to protect her.

This followed the return of protesters from a march from downtown to East Lansing and back again.

Windows were broken at the Romney Building, at Michigan and Capitol Avenue, where the governor and her staff work.

Other places that suffered broken windows included Chase Bank, Comerica, Linn & Owen Jewelers, the Knapp's building, Sultan's Express, Firehouse Subs, MLive, the Downtown YMCA and AT&T.  Graffiti reading "BLM" and "Fuck 12" was spraypainted onto windows on the Michigan Avenue side of the office building on the southwest corner of Washington and Michigan.

Downtown Lansing Inc. released a statement Sunday night asking volunteers to gather downtown at 9:30 a.m. today to help with the clean up.

Scores of police throughout the region worked to contain dozens of demonstrators who caused trouble primarily along Michigan and Washington. Many more protesters stayed by the Capitol steps.

Earlier in the evening, police fired tear gas at least twice. The first time was after the protesters set a car on fire on Washington south of Michigan.

Schor said he understood that the police used tear gas the first time to get demonstrators away from the burning car "to prevent other things from catching fire."

He said the Lansing Fire Department could not get to the car because of people in the street.

"Several warnings were given," Schor said. "That's when people started throwing bottles and other things at the police.

"The police released gas near the car to disburse people so other things didn't burn down," he said.

Earlier, hundreds of peaceful protesters marched from the Capitol through downtown Lansing streets today to show their anger over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

They chanted "black lives matter" and "no justice, no peace, no racist-ass police," but the loudest chant was "say his name, George Floyd," who died after Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck while Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe. Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder.

The march ended around 1:30 p.m. without a confirmed incident.

However, protesters said the police chased a man who police believed had a can of spray paint.

The first march was followed by a second, smaller one east on Michigan Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue then north to Shiawassee Street. About 100 to 200 protesters participated.

On Pennsylvania,  protesters surrounded a police car at one point and started chanting. As protesters marched toward four or five police officers who were on foot, the police gave way. There was no contact then between police and protesters, some of whom chanted, "Get the fuck out of here, go home." Protesters cheered when the police retreated.

As a police car was driven away, protesters threw three or four bottles of water at it. 

Marchers then walked to Cedar and turned left and returned to Michigan Avenue. As of 4:30 p.m., the marchers were continuing east and were around Frandor. Along the way, protesters walked around cars, some of which honked. Some people in cars raised their fists out the window in apparent solidarity.

A few protesters lined the sidewalk squirting hand sanitizer on anyone wanting it.

Some military-style police vehicles were parked in a lot on the corner of Seymour Avenue and Ionia Street, near the Capitol.

During the second march, a car was driven fast on Michigan Avenue amid the marchers, causing a youthful protester to throw a bottle at it as he yelled an obscenity.

Neither Lansing Police nor the Michigan State Police confirmed any arrests. The State Police said it would share details about the protest by the end of today or tomorrow.

The bigger march filled the width of Michigan Avenue and the length of Michigan from Capitol Avenue to the traffic circle at Washington Square at the outset. Eventually, it stretched from the traffic circle to Larch Street, where they turned north. Marchers then turned onto Shiawassee Street and then left onto Cedar Street. The march ended as protesters turned to Michigan Avenue and the Capitol grounds. 

The protesters started gathering on the Capitol lawn around 10 a.m. They began marching shortly after 11 a.m. It was still going on at nearly 1:30 p.m.

The protest was organized on Facebook, where posts said it was aimed at police brutality, not police in general.

One of the protesters was Larry Kirchhoff, 49, who was standing at the back of the lawn with his family, all wearing Black Lives Matter gear.

"I'm here because I think police brutality is just another form of institutional racism.

"Colin Kapernick brought this injustice to life years ago," Kirchhoff said, referring to the professional football player who "took the knee" to protest racial injustice. "And we ignore him. So here we are four years later with the same issues. We're seeing the consequences of our own ignorance.

"I don't know what to think about the police response to these protests," he said, adding he hoped violence and looting seen in New York, Atlanta, Minneapolis and other cities doesn't happen in Lansing.

Another protester, Andrea Smith, 50, of Lansing and the mother of two boys, said: "We as black people have to teach our children that they have to be careful when they're approached by police, no matter what the situation."

"They're taught at a young age that the have to fight, be smarter, work harder. They have to know — at any time — their lives are at stake.

"I'm happy this is a peaceful march," she added. Just a peaceful day to show people that black lives really matter."

Lansing resident Jaylen Hawkins, 19, said he was there because the video of Floyd "struck his heart.

"Eight minutes and 42 seconds," he said. "But he was passed out by the fourth minute. The extra four minutes were just brutality."

Said Romello Peebles, 19, a black man, of Lansing: "I've been judged a lot. Walking down the street, I get stopped. They ask where I'm going. They ask for my name, and then they don't believe me when I tell it to them. No matter what I'm doing, even if I'm just going to the store.

"I hate the hassle of being afraid to go out because I could get in trouble. If it was a different individual, I know they wouldn't be stopped.

"There are good police in all precincts. But the bad ones have all the power. They use the badge to bully people."

"A lot of people have pent-up anger. No one ever listened to them, but now they're listening — because of what people have been doing in the streets."

A Lansing resident who identified himself as D.J. Basey said that his brother was killed by police in Seattle. "I wish my mother were here to see this," he said.

Laura Harms, 50, came to the protest armed with a handmade soapbox and a megaphone.

"I'm here today because black lives matter," she said. "These protests are definitely inspiring. What's been happening at night — the looting and rioting — saddens my heart. But I also understand people have been pushed up against the wall. It's time for something to break loose. No justice, no peace." 

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