Discussion during a Black Lives Matter Lansing webinar Wednesday night was dominated by criticism over the city’s police budget and a call for Lansing Mayor Andy Schor’s resignation.
This post was last updated Thursday June 4th at 6:50 p.m.
The virtual event took place as tensions and raw anger spilled into the streets nationwide following the police killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, by a White police officer who knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
Early in the “Black Lives Matter: Call To Action” event, Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail announced that the county board of commissioners would take up a resolution declaring racism to be a public health emergency.
Dr. Adenike Shoyinke, a medical officer with the Ingham County Health Department, said “We need to name racism for what it is. It is a disease.”
Later that evening, a report was also released that George Floyd had tested positive for COVID-19 on April 3rd. Across the country the disease has disproportionately impacted Black people. In Michigan, Black Michiganders account for 40 percent of the state’s deaths while making up just 14 percent of the state’s population.
Mayor Schor was on the panel, where later in the session he faced tough questioning about his race relations efforts and the city’s police spending.
Michael Lynn, co-host of a podcast called “Merica 20 To Life,” also called for a divestiture of police spending in Lansing, with money steered to organizations working to stop over-policing in the city.
Lynn, a black firefighter who is suing the city of Lansing for discrimination argued there is over-policing in the city’s black neighborhoods.
“Do you know how many times the neighborhoods that I live in, the neighborhoods where my community lives in, how many times kids leave their house get pulled over and over and over again for not having a license plate light? Do you think that that is a substantial use of our force? There’s certain things you don’t have to overpolice,” said Lynn.
Panelist Angela Waters Austin is the CEO of One Love Global, an organization focused on racial equity. She also pushed for zeroing out the police budget, saying “I am speaking of the community that is targeted by the police. The police do not protect us, so you cannot make that argument convincingly to the black community.”
Austin later directly called for Schor to resign, making Schor visibly uncomfortable.
“Mayor, I’d like to get an answer to my question, I made an ask of you.” said Austin.
“Which question? I’m happy to,” replied Schor.
“I asked you to resign, I’d like an answer,” Austin said.
“I’m not planning to resign right now,” Schor said.
Schor said he’s willing to have discussions on where police cuts might be possible, but said residents need police protection.
The tense forum concluded with anger from Austin following Schor’s statement that Lansing police will continue to do better and listen to concerns and complaints.
“How dare you frame this as a complaint,” exclaimed Austin. “How dare you. Community, I’m done talking to him.”
The webinar had 30,000 views as of Thursday afternoon, and is available for viewing on the Black Lives Matter Lansing Facebook page.
In a post to Facebook Thursday evening Schor publicly apologized, saying he had not come prepared to answer the questions asked by the webinar’s panelists.
“I will admit, I don’t have all the answers. And I will admit, I am a white man and have not lived a life of someone who is racially profiled,” said Schor.
The mayor vowed to hold a town hall with local leaders to develop a plan for the community.
Peaceful Protest Ends With Die-In
Meanwhile in Downtown Lansing protesters gathered peacefully at the State Capitol Wednesday to once again call for justice following the police killing of George Floyd.
It was the third time in less than a week that protesters marched down Michigan Avenue to cry out against police brutality. Wednesday’s protest followed news that Derek Chauvin, the white officer charged with killing Floyd, who was black, will be charged with second degree murder.
As the sun set behind the Capitol in Lansing, a handful of protesters staged a die-in as passing cars honked in support.
“To the police,” cried out the protesters. “Hello. Can you hear me? Stop killing me,” the group chanted in unison.
Peaceful protest at the Capitol this evening. pic.twitter.com/5sXwshgt07
— Karel Vega (@karelephant) June 4, 2020
Mike Pete attended the protest. He said he is happy law enforcement took additional action in the Floyd case, but it took longer than it should have.
“It’s late, they late. They years, years and years behind what they should’ve been doing. But at least they’re doing it now, that’s all you can ask for,” said Pete.
Isaiah Jackson also attended the protest. He said he was a little happier now that more officers were charged in the case.
“I think people are coming around to seeing this is a real issue,” said Jackson.
A private memorial for Floyd is planned Thursday in Minneapolis. The three officers also on the scene when Floyd was killed have been charged with aiding and abetting.