Kalamazoo City Commissioners, Citizens React To Proud Boys Rally

Aug 18, 2020

Kalamazoo Public Safety Officers respond to a rally by the Proud Boys and counter protesters Saturday August 15 in downtown Kalamazoo
Credit John McNeill / WMUK

The disruptive visit by the Proud Boys this weekend was the focus of Tuesday night’s Kalamazoo City Commission meeting, with plenty of blame to go around, and promises that the mistakes made would not be repeated. 

Everyone agreed that the Proud Boys, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center was not welcome to Kalamazoo, but that’s where the consensus ended. While there was considerable criticism of Public Safety from citizens for failing to intervene before the violence started others praised the job done by Public Safety and its staff. A number of residents called for the resignations of Mayor Dave Anderson, Chief Karianne Thomas and Manager Jim Ritsema. Ritsema defended public safety, saying mistakes may have been made, but it was not intentional.

Nine were arrested during violent clashes between the Proud Boys hate group and counter protesters but charges against all but one of them have now been dismissed. It was revealed that not only was a reporter arrested by mistake, but an independent legal observer from the National Lawyers Guild was arrested, with the charges subsequently dropped. Ritsema says the city is now focusing their investigation on the Proud Boys and may bring charges against some of them in the coming weeks after reviewing video of the scuffles.

The discussion continued until early Tuesday morning. Commissioners decided to recess the meeting and continue the rest of their agenda Tuesday evening at 6:00.