KDPS Says Both Sides Were Armed During Saturday Protest

Aug 16, 2020

Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Karianne Thomas addresses weekend protests during a Sunday news conference
Credit John McNeill / WMUK

Nine people were arrested after members of the Proud Boys hate group and counter-demonstrators scuffled Saturday near Arcadia Festival Park, but Kalamazoo city officials say it could have been much worse. 

Public Safety Chief Karianne Thomas revealed during a Sunday afternoon news conference at City Hall that both sides were armed. She said the members of the hate group did use pepper spray, and she admitted that Public Safety also used it to try to put some distance between the two groups. The skunk like smell hung in the air for some time after the confrontation. Punches were thrown and objects were used as clubs, but no shots were fired.

Mayor Dave Anderson started off the news conference saying hate groups aren’t welcome in Kalamazoo. Anderson also announced that he had requested that minor ordinance violations against five counter-demonstrators be dropped. City Attorney Clyde Robinson has since dismissed the misdemeanors. Four other more serious charges involving assault have been turned over to the County Prosecutor.

Credit Kalamazoo Public Safety

Chief Thomas says that more arrests may be made. She says they are asking anyone who was injured or victimized in the scuffles come forward and that anyone with video of the confrontations, make them available to Public Safety. Thomas apologized for the arrest of an M-Live reporter who was covering the protests. Samuel Robinson was charged with impeding traffic. That charge was dropped almost immediately.

Thomas admitted law enforcement were slow to respond when the scuffles broke out. She said they had been covertly monitoring the march by the Proud Boys from the parking ramp on Rose St. toward the festival site. Thomas says they are still learning how to respond to such events, and will know better next time. Thomas says she did not want her officers to become a target of demonstrators and they were keeping a low profile as it began.