Police Again Forced To Use Tear Gas in Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo’s downtown smelled of tear gas again last night. But violent rioting that swept across the central city Monday night was not repeated last night. The city’s Public Safety Department was confronted by a large group of protesters early last evening. The protesters drawing attention to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week were refusing to follow an emergency order and curfew. Many protesters approached a police line and got within inches of officers. A department command officer took a knee for a moment with the protesters, telling them that the department would not let them stay, regardless of the validity of their concerns. After several requests for the protesters to disperse and them refusing, tear gas was deployed. The protest group was pushed back out of the safety zone set up by police and within a short time, the protesters dispersed. Only a couple of related arrests were made. There are no reports so far of any further disruptive actions in the city’s downtown.
However - Five homes just to the north of Kalamazoo’s downtown area are little more than shells this morning. Fire swept through the homes late last night with the city fire department labeling the situation suspicious. One home was occupied and the resident was able to get out ok. The adjoining structures are along West North on Kalamazoo’s immediate north side. All five homes are considered totally destroyed. City fire investigators say the fire got going in one of the four vacant homes and quickly spread. The location is just a short distance from a vacant building fire Monday night while rioting was going on in the city’s downtown area.
Following approval by the state, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller declared the county under a state of emergency declaration yesterday morning. The decision was based on what Sheriff Fuller describes as planned and violent civil disturbances in several areas of the county. The central city section of Kalamazoo and Oshtemo Township on the west side of the county were the worst hit. The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety reports damages to more than two dozen businesses with broken windows and some looting. Three suspicious fires are being investigated following the rioting. Several department cruisers were also damaged. Curfews were initiated in Kalamazoo, Portage, and Oshtemo Township. The curfew in Portage was set up more as a deterrent based on what happened the Monday evening in Kalamazoo.
National Guard troops mobilized to support Kalamazoo Public Safety. The department also got help from Michigan State Police troopers. Kalamazoo Public Safety officers late yesterday afternoon set up what is described as a peace zone. That involved blocking off several streets in the immediate downtown area surrounding Burdick Street, site of the city’s former pedestrian mall. The curfews are planned to remain will remain in effect until Friday.