CWD Real Estate sees silver lining in aftermath of violent protests

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Volunteers clean up at the CWD building, 50 Louis St. NW. Courtesy CWD Real Estate

CWD Real Estate, which owns 18 buildings in downtown Grand Rapids, saw the silver lining in the aftermath of Saturday night’s riot.

Sam Cummings, managing partner with CWD, said he was “mad as hell” Saturday night and Sunday morning, but witnessing the community outreach and cleanup afterward restored his faith in West Michigan.

“That is not who we are, and that was confirmed by talking to some folks on the police force,” Cummings said. “Who we were was (Sunday).”

The city of Grand Rapids is under curfew following Saturday’s violent protests downtown.

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss on Sunday signed a proclamation declaring a state of civil emergency and enacted a curfew in the city of Grand Rapids for the next 48 hours.

“Our city and our partners have taken numerous actions to respond to and protect against this threat,” Bliss said. “We implore our residents and visitors to abide by this curfew so we can restore order and protect our residents.”

The curfew started at 7 p.m. Sunday until 5 a.m. Monday, and it will be enacted for one more night, from 7 p.m. Monday to 5 a.m. Tuesday. It prevents community members from walking, running, loitering, standing or motoring upon any alley, street, highway, public property or vacant premises within the city of Grand Rapids. Community members may travel to and from work during the curfew.

The curfew followed Saturday’s night of violent protests and civil unrest downtown that resulted in substantial property damage and threats of harm to community members and public safety officers. Those acts followed a peaceful protest that started at Rosa Parks Circle earlier Saturday, where city officials estimated more than 4,000 people participated.

Similar protests, both violent and peaceful, have broken out across the country in response to the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25.

Cummings said by noon Sunday, except for the boarding where storefront windows had been broken, one wouldn’t be able to tell the violence ever took place. Local contractors told CWD they were mobilized early Sunday morning, people from all around West Michigan showed up with brooms, detergents, garbage cans and other supplies to take part in the cleanup, and even restaurants were on the ground passing out free food to volunteers.

At press time, CWD was just beginning to calculate the property damage, but Cummings said many local contractors offered to volunteer their work free of charge. It will take some time to fully restore all of the storefronts downtown because they all have custom-sized glass, Cummings said.

“What you may see is pieces of storefronts being restored first so businesses still have some visibility,” he said. “We’re staying in our lane and trying to get the business open and viable as quickly as we possibly can.”

Cummings emphasized while what happened Saturday night was not unique to Grand Rapids, but the Grand Rapids community exhibited a unique resilience.

“The peaceful gatherings are a justified, honorable and rightful thing to have occur,” Cummings said. “Those things should be protected, but when they escalate to damaging small businesses — we got guys who have had their entire inventory wiped out — when they escalate to damaging other people’s property or their employees, it’s not acceptable.”

During a media briefing Sunday, city officials provided a recap of Saturday night’s events:

  • No injuries to community members or sworn officers
  • No loss of life
  • Seven arrests
  • 100 businesses impacted
  • Seven vehicle fires
  • Three structure fires
  • Several dumpster/trash fires

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne said he appreciated the overwhelming community support shown to his officers over the past 24 hours.

“Public safety is our top priority, and we are committed to keeping everyone safe at all times — especially under challenging circumstances,” he said. “I want to assure the community that we are using all of our tools to identify the perpetrators responsible for last night’s violence, put their faces out in public in the coming days and ask for the community’s help to identify them.

“What happened last night was totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” City Manager Mark Washington said. “Our law enforcement officers will use every means of appropriate force to prevent another night of unrest.”

Washington addressed concerns alleging the Grand Rapids Police Department did not do enough to stop the violence and did not make more arrests.

“Our police headquarters was under attack last night,” he said. “Protesters were trying to rush in and disrupt our command center. Our officers and partner agencies were focused on public safety and keeping protesters from impacting those operations.

“I am proud of our police department’s response to the events that transpired (Saturday night), and I am grateful for their efforts to prevent injuries or loss of life, and they did this in a professional and respectful manner.”

Anyone with information about the criminal acts that took place Saturday are asked to contact the Grand Rapids Police Department at (616) 456-3400 or Silent Observer at 774-2345 or silentobserver.org.

Some of the businesses/buildings that were damaged include:

  • Madcap Coffee
  • Parsley Mediterranean Bar & Grille
  • Sundance Grill and Bar
  • Cinco de Mayo Mexican Grill & Bar
  • Kilwins
  • Biggby
  • Grand Rapids Art Museum
  • Grand Rapids Public Library main branch
  • Kendall College of Art & Design
  • MeXo
  • The Dog Pit
  • Big O’ Cafe
  • Villa
  • Secretary of State
  • Vault of Midnight
  • Michigan First Credit Union
  • One Trick Pony Grill & Taproom
  • San Chez Bistro
  • Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
  • Sweet Yo’s
  • Angel’s Thai Cafe
  • Gina’s Boutique
  • Kent County Building
  • Kent County Courthouse
  • GRPD headquarters
  • Trellis (Herman Miller dealer showroom)

Grand Rapids Magazine reporter Rachel Watson contributed to this story.

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