Dawn breaks after protest: Community cleanup provides unexpected opportunity for dialogue

On Saturday, May 30, over 3000 people gathered downtown Grand Rapids to protest the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. At noon on Saturday, three events kicked off organized by three different groups, with the last focused on a silent march winding around the city and ending at the Grand Rapids Police Department. Shortly after this event ended, violence and destruction began and continued throughout the night, resulting in the destruction of dozens of properties downtown, including numerous restaurants and retail storefronts.

Though investigators, activists, officials, local media, and police are still working to establish a timeline to better communicate with the public, Sunday morning shone a bright light on the community's quest for solidarity. Gathering in the hundreds, every day Grand Rapidians of all races, ages, and backgrounds took to the streets with brooms, scrub brushes, and plywood to clean public spaces, wiping away broken glass, scrubbing graffiti, and boarding up smashed windows.

These are the images of that effort — a quiet show of support for the people and spaces that make up downtown. In the midst of a nationwide race crisis, in the middle of a pandemic, and as we approach an uncertain future of a mandatory 7 p.m. curfew, these citizens showed that quiet acts of redemption speak loudly, and sometimes the tools of hope are our own hands and feet, equipped with buckets, brooms, and sometimes even face masks.

While there was much work to do that began at daybreak (and still much more), we cannot help but imagine that as communities of color ask white people to begin to engage in dialogue about race, opportunities still exist to come together in Grand Rapids. We at Rapid Growth hope this opportunity is not missed.

Volunteers clean up at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. The double-pane safety glass prevented rioters from entering the museum, and no art was damaged, according to a statement from the GRAM.
Grafitti is scrubbed from the walls outside of Big O's on Ottawa St.Volunteers sweep away broken glass on Pearl St.Windows are boarded on Louis St.Volunteers clean grafitti.Volunteers talk to media on Monroe Center.Fulton St. outside of the police department was the epicenter of the violence. Here, volunteers sweep broken glass and scrub graffiti from the pavement.
The Grand Rapids Police Department sustained the brunt of the damage, with broken windows and graffiti surrounding the facility, including the Secretary of State's Office on 1 Division N.
Volunteers work to replace windows for Superior Watch Repair on Monroe Center.
Volunteers work together to clean graffiti on the walls of the GRPD.

Photographer Bud Kibby has worked with Rapid Growth Media over the years. The morning of Sunday, May 31, Bud headed downtown to capture images of the community coming together to cleanup after a night of unrest. To view more of his work, visit his website.
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