TRAVERSE CITY — Jade Krumlauf wants her classmates to feel as safe as she does.
“I don’t want them to feel scared,” said the Traverse City 11-year-old, whose freckled face hid behind a whale-printed face mask and locks of red hair. “I don’t want people to feel scared because they’re a different color. That’s not right.”
She — flanked by father Zeb and younger sister Sienna — joined more than 1,000 protesters at the Open Space in a showing of solidarity, of grief, and of hope.
Saturday marked the largest Black Lives Matter protest Traverse City has seen. It was spurred by the homicide of George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police custody on May 25, an event that’s caused dozens of protests and less-peaceful clashes with police throughout the nation.
Signs held high overhead read “We are all members of the human race,” “Color is not a crime,” “All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter,” “United in outrage,” “Stop killing us.”
“I think it’s an important moment in the history of this country,” Zeb Krumlauf said, adding that his daughters wanted to attend. “They’re the future. I’m really proud of them for wanting to be here.”
Traverse City Police Chief Jeff O’Brien lauded protesters for remaining — mostly — peaceful.
“I felt the message was heard and received from both sides — not that there are sides, but I think the message to police was clear, and I feel that the message from police to the people was clear,” he said.
Several members of the region’s Black community spoke at the rally, sharing anger and heartbreak over Floyd’s death and their own accounts of racism — like the wariness felt on neighborhood walks and fears their children carry daily.
“We are here today to solve the problems. Don’t throw gasoline on the fires,” one of the main speakers, Marshall Collins Jr., urged fellow demonstrators.
Another speaker listed demands for local law enforcement — an end to racial profiling, better treatment of situations involving Black people by both officers and dispatchers and real, true help from the community.
“We are tired of broken promises,” said Courtney Wiggins, 38-year-old Traverse City resident, into the mic. “For this to work, we all need to work together to make it work.”
As they spoke, gatherers shared hugs, drew into circles to talk and walked the crowd’s perimeter with signs held high.
Others waved at traffic, periodically drawing a cacophony of supportive honks.
The gathering drew a notable police presence — a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter passed overhead and Traverse City Police officers, invited to attend, stood near the stage.
In-uniform Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s deputies watched from the back of the crowd, and plain-clothes officers intermingled with protesters. Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Tribal Police also made an appearance.
“I don’t think you’ll find a lot of law enforcement officers that aren’t upset about things right now,” said Deputy Matt McKinley, flanked by fellow Deputy Preston Taylor. “He’s been a police officer for 24 years, I’ve been one for 17. We pride ourselves on being officers. It tarnishes everything that every good cop is trying to work for.”
Both O’Brien and Sheriff Tom Bensley offered speeches.
The TCPD chief opened his with an apology to a teen who spoke before him — the boy had been detained by police and slammed against a cruiser after being misidentified, he told the crowd.
O’Brien also took the chance to condemn the actions of Minneapolis officers.
“Had the officers who were involved in the killing of Floyd came up on three civilians engaged in an assault, they would have made an arrest. The same should’ve applied to their fellow policeman,” he said through a black face mask.
The gathering spurred four calls to police — one of them, for an altercation that turned violent.
One protester, a 27-year-old Suttons Bay man, was arrested after throwing rocks at a passing truck bearing a “Trump” flag, according to TCPD Sgt. Matt Richmond. One of the rocks sliced a passenger’s hand, Richmond said, and an ensuing fist fight left both men with minor injuries.
Josh Kopietz, the truck’s driver and brother-in-law to the man injured, offered a statement to police in a nearby parking lot. He expressed frustration after the attack.
“Just because you don’t like someone’s stances doesn’t mean you get to assault them,” Kopietz said, adding that he’d come out to “support his own protest.”
“To come out here and show everybody that there’s two sides to it — more than two sides to it. And not every Trump supporter is racist.”
That protester, a Suttons Bay man, likely will face a felony charge of throwing an object at a moving vehicle causing injury, and a misdemeanor charge for assault and battery. The case awaits review by county prosecutors.
“The vehicle, my guess, was singled out because of the Trump flag,” Richmond said.
Other Black Lives Matter protesters chased the suspect down and called 911.
In town, some shops boarded up windows and a condo complex near the Open Space was patrolled by a private security guard through the afternoon.
But for many, the dominant feeling was one of support.
“We’ve come to a time where we have to face the reality of what’s going on,” said 72-year-old protester Jane Hayes. “It is time for the division to end. It’s time for the healing to begin.”
“It’s time for people to stand up.”