Mayor voices regrets over downtown protest-turned-riot

Schor says he was uninvolved in decision to tear gas protesters during May 31 unrest

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Lansing Mayor Andy Schor is voicing regrets over how cops handled a march against police brutality after hundreds of peaceful protesters were tear gassed without warning downtown.

Schor and the Lansing Police Department in recent weeks have faced criticism over a decision to lob tear gas into crowds during a massive downtown protest on May 31. This week, Schor offered some remorse — but said he did not order its use, which he has defended.

“That decision was made by the chief of police in consultation with the county sheriff,” Schor told City Pulse this week. “I found out not long afterwards, and had a conversation with the chief and he explained the situation, which evolved to where we had danger for people living downtown.”

Under the City Charter, the mayor may exercise within the city the powers conferred upon sheriffs to suppress disorder and enforce the laws and regulations of both the state and the city. Schor, while he still endorses the actual use of the tear gas that night, said those decisions were all being made by Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth and Police Chief Daryl Green.

Schor said Lansing hadn’t used tear gas in decades and that he should have been more involved. He also regrets staying home during the evening protests when he should’ve been on the street.

“It was a chaotic, hectic environment,” Schor said. “It’s an expectation that I have to be brought in on a decision like that, but he’s a new police chief and I’m a new mayor and this has never happened before. It’s a conversation we’ll have. I don’t expect this is going to happen again.”

“I was advised that I might not be able to get back to City Hall,” Schor added. “I should’ve come back. That was a failure on my part. We should’ve had a press conference. We should’ve had the chief explain what was going on, for me to call for calm. That should’ve been done.”

LPD issued some copaganda in a press release the next day that claimed officers essentially had no choice but to tear gas “dangerous rioters” in order to “dissuade ongoing, intensifying and dangerous criminal activity.” It also claims that “proper verbal warnings” preceded the gas.

An actual press conference — in which the chief took just three questions — wasn’t called until more than a week later where Green reconstructed the evening. Schor said he also should’ve formed a much quicker response.

“We were really trying to analyze everything that happened,” Schor said. “I didn’t want to get out and start talking about things that I don’t know about. I needed to understand what happened.”

City Pulse reporters — and dozens of others — know that tear gas was deployed by police without warning during the protest. Schor has heard those complaints as well. The response to the demonstration will be reviewed, as per LPD policy on all instances of police use of force.

In the meantime, Schor also regrets not giving protesters a bigger heads up before the gas.

“The police said they made warnings,” Schor said. “Maybe people didn’t hear them. If I could go back in time, I would want people to know before gas is being issued because peaceful protestors who were still there should have an opportunity to leave before gas is issued.”

Three City Pulse reporters who were on the streets during the protest heard warnings over the downtown speaker system that a curfew was in effect and protesters were subject to arrest. But they never heard a warning that tear gas would be used.

A citywide curfew for 9 p.m. was announced that night at 9:15 p.m. after violence continued. Some text message alerts went out later. Schor wishes he would have provided more notice of the curfew, but he admits he struggled with the decision to declare one that night at all.

“I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t want to assume that things would go bad,” Schor said. “If you issue a curfew, you’re assuming that things are going to get bad. I didn’t assume that.”

The Lansing Police Department will continue to reconstruct and review the narrative of the protest from last month, Schor said, including the possibility of criminal charges being levied against a driver that allegedly drove through a crowd of protesters. Her car was burned.

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