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Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Says Proud Boys Successful in Getting People to React

File photo of law enforcement during the Proud Boys March in downtown Kalamazoo August 15, 2020
John McNeill

Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Karianne Thomas says the Proud Boys wanted to create a stir when they came to Kalamazoo last month, and “they did it.” 

Monday, the city released video and still photos from the August 15th clash in downtown Kalamazoo. The Proud Boys have been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Thomas says that video shows counter protesters starting the physical confrontation with the Proud Boys. In some cases, members of the Proud Boys were struck with sticks or batons, and responded by using pepper spray. Kalamazoo Public safety officials say the pepper spray was used legally in self-defense.

Thomas says law enforcement decided not to bring a heavy police presence into the area until after fights broke out. She would not call that decision a “mistake.” However, Thomas says the public safety department will review its plans for any future protests and counter demonstrations.

Kalamazoo Public Safety officials say they contacted the Proud Boys once rumors started about an event in Kalamazoo. Officials say they never heard back from the alt right group of their attorney. Assistant Public Safety Chief David Boysen says the group started their march at 1:30 that afternoon, even though social media posts called for a 2:00 start. Boysen says follow up intelligence showed that was intentional to “throw off the timing” of the event.

Meanwhile KDPS says counter demonstrators had promised a small peaceful event of 20 to 30 people. However, it was a much larger group and many of them were carrying weapons. 10 people were arrested on August 15th. Charges have been dropped against all but one of them.

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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