Kalamazoo, Portage Announce Curfews

Jun 2, 2020

Windows at the Blue Salon on Michigan Avenue damaged by vandals on Monday, June 1
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Kalamazoo and Portage have announced citywide curfews from 7 p.m. Monday, June 2, to 5 a.m. Wednesday, June 3. That's after vandals damaged buildings in Kalamazoo Monday night following peaceful demonstrations against police brutality.

(The curfews were lifted in both cities the next day.)

The Michigan National Guard is deploying troops in Kalamazoo to help local police and Kalamazoo County has declared a local "state of emergency."

The order to stay off the streets comes after a night of destruction in downtown Kalamazoo. After peaceful protests Monday, vandals broke windows on businesses along Michigan Avenue and the Kalamazoo Mall.

Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Karianne Thomas says the Michigan National Guard will help close the streets tonight.

“So that our own public safety officers can address calls for service or ensure protestors and citizens are safe tonight.”

Protesters outside a Kalamazoo Public Safety Department news conference on Tuesday, June 2
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Critics of Kalamazoo’s Public Safety Department say a video on social media shows officers mistreating a group of protestors Monday night. But the department says the video doesn’t tell the whole story.

A video posted to Facebook shows several people lying in the road near the Michigan Avenue Courthouse. Officers appear to fire tear gas at them at very close range. The video prompted outrage on social media. But at a news conference Tuesday morning, Assistant Chief Vernon Coakley said the people in the street weren’t protestors so much as vandals. Coakley says before they laid down, officers chased them through the streets.

“As they destroyed property and attempted to loot. And again, I remind you, we were outnumbered 50-to-1.”

KDPS officials say hundreds of motorists, many of them driving recklessly, gridlocked the downtown area overnight. They blamed "agitators" from out-of-town for most of the damage.

Dean Hauck, owner of the Michigan News Agency bookstore on Michigan Avenue, doesn't think it was local residents who broke out two large windows on her shop. (Full disclosure: the Michigan News Agency is an underwriter on WMUK).

"I don’t know what kind of message they’re trying to send me," she said, "because the message that my people have sent me is that they love and support us and will stand with me."

The curfew ends at five in the morning. City officials say it might resume each night for the next week. The Michigan News Agency is an underwiter on WMUK.