On Tuesday, Sept. 8, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety hosted a Zoom meeting, releasing video and body cam footage from the Aug. 15 Proud Boys march and counterprotests.
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The Proud Boys identified themselves as western chauvinists. The Southern Poverty Law Center listed the Proud Boys as a hate group because of what the center says is the group’s frequent denigration of Muslims and Islam, misogynistic rhetoric and its role as a gateway to other extremist groups, said Cassie Miller, the center’s senior research analyst.
KDPS officers said the Proud Boys refused to provide information about their protest, but counterprotesters did.
They said the first object thrown at the Proud Boys came from someone shown on video with a disposable cup full of what appeared to be a frozen substance.
Kalamazoo officials warned the footage may be graphic in nature.
KDPS said video clips put together as part of its investigation show counterprotesters incite the violence. The organizer of the unity rally, First Congregational Church Pastor Nathan Dannison, said that isn't true.
In the video, it's hard to tell who's on what side, the Proud Boys or counterprotesters, but police said violence broke out when a man with a sleeveless gray shirt and jeans walked straight into the crowd of Proud Boys.
Dannison said he saw the violence start when the Proud Boys assaulted a homeless man in a gray tank top.
It appeared that man was a counterprotester, and was against the Proud Boys, according to police.
- Interview with the Proud Boys: We're tired of people telling lies about Aug. 15, we were attacked
Police were dispatched to the scene a few moments after this initial altercation. There were 111 officers on duty for the Proud Boys march.
Police said it took them a few minutes to respond.
"It was a strategic decision. We knew there would be delays moving in, but we had made contact several times that week with the counterprotest organizer who kept telling us it was going to be a peaceful protest," said Chief Karianne Thomas.
Several fights broke out as the Proud Boys kept marching.
Unedited video streamed live on Facebook shows the Proud Boys pepper spraying counterprotesters.
“The Proud Boys sprayed peppers spray in self-defense from these assaults," said Assistant Chief David Boysen.
Police said when the Proud Boys marched into a parking garage, they were instructed to make arrests if the group, who was from out of town, didn't leave. The Proud Boys drove off.
The Kalamazoo department took a much different approach handling this protest compared to a Black Lives Matter protest in May. Thomas said the messages behind the protest had nothing to do with the difference in police response.
The counterprotesters were the only ones facing charges, but Boysen said it was possible members of the Proud Boys could face charges for fighting.