GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Far right and controversial group, the Proud Boys, are expected to gather in west Michigan on Saturday.
The city of Grand Rapids is preparing for the group’s rally at Ah-Nab-Awen Park. It was scheduled to begin at noon on Saturday.
Across Michigan authorities are bracing for potential violence at the planned Proud Boys rally.
City leaders are asking counter protesters not to engage with the group.
“My first thought is that it’s not good, but they do have freedom of speech. So, I’m sure they’ll be putting their hate messages across the United States whenever they have the opportunity,” said Robert Womack, Kent County commissioner.
“After some of the leadership being arrested in the siege of the Capitol building in Washington, I’m sure they would be labeled a hate group. In Canada they’re labeled a terrorist group,” said Womack.
Here in the United States the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Proud Boys a hate group.
Word of the rally circulated on social media Friday morning.
“The city of Grand Rapids did not give them a permit. But they will be allowed to meet at that park with First Amendment rights. They just won’t be able to have vendors,” said Womack.
They will also not be allowed to use any amplified equipment. However, they can use megaphones.
Womack is asking that no one physically try to break up the rally, adding that it would not be impactful.
“They are going to hate us before the rally, during the rally, after the rally. You’re not going to change their mind,” said Womack.
He added that his biggest concern is the possibility of violence breaking out.
In August of 2020 the Proud Boys marched through downtown Kalamazoo and clashed with bystanders and counter protesters.
A month later the police chief’s contract was terminated by the city.
“Violence just continues to follow the Proud Boys from city to city. Now the city of Grand Rapids and Kent County as a whole, we have to deal with it,” said Womack.
A counter protest was planned for Saturday morning. Womack is advising people not to engage with them and allow police to handle the situation.
“I’m just asking everybody not to resort to violence because it doesn’t prove anything. It takes away from all messages,” said Womack.
The Department of Justice is using video evidence including clips from Capitol police body cameras to try to prove their case that the Proud Boys were one of the groups that helped orchestrate the January 6 attack on the Capitol.