"I want us to dream a little bigger."
- Mariame Kaba
“We challenge you to be a part of creating a world where communities are fully funded, where neighbors take care of each other, where we practice community accountability that prioritizes safety, healing, and empowerment.” - Danah, Black leadership team member, Defund the GRPD
"The police ARE the violence." - D., community leader
We believe it's not too much to ask for a world where everybody in Grand Rapids has their basic and complex needs met, as they see fit: where people all have access to comfortable housing, a wide variety of food, healing and supportive healthcare and all sorts of individual and family supports, from child care to mental health counseling. In this world, we keep each other safe by keeping each other whole. And as the rare harm occurs, we practice accountability for true healing and change, rather than using the tactics that have failed for hundreds of years to keep us safe: imprisonment and criminalization. Imagining this generous and caring world while living in a cruel, racist and sexist culture is hard, and creating it is even harder, but we are not alone in this work and we welcome you to learn more and join our efforts [link to volunteer form]
Why We Exist
Defund the GRPD exists because people in Grand Rapids have called for an end to ongoing, racist police violence at the hands of the GRPD. The racist history of policing is widely available and even acknowledged by the GRPD. A call to the GRPD leads to trauma and even murder, with much more harm going to the people in our community who are Black, Brown, and Indigenous. Reform measures have never worked, and in fact, cause MORE harm, even when they have folksy names like "neighborhood policing" or "community policing." When the GRPD comes into our communities, they actually prevent people from being able to keep themselves safe.
In June of 2020, a group of Black and Latinx leaders came together with white allies/accomplices to form the coalition that is Defund The GRPD. Our initial focus was to get the City Commission to cut the police budget from approx. 38% of the 2020-2021 city budget down to 32%. We knew that a city charter amendment from 1995 required that the city budget allot at least 32% to the GRPD, so that was a good place to start.
After constant pressure from the community, the city commission was on the verge of voting to reduce the police budget, when the city attorney interrupted and gave legal reasons why the decision might not hold up without the city manager initiating the change. The city manager made clear that he would not do so.
Since that time, Defund the GRPD has made its focus on engaging the community, especially Black and Brown communities who are over-policed and affected at higher rates by police violence. We center the stories and experiences of those whose lives and loved ones who have been targeted and touched by a police force that enacts white supremacy. We host community conversations and exercises in accountability. We make sure the City Commission’s bureaucracy is transparent by publishing easy-t0-read updates and summaries. And we offer community care in the form of our Alternatives to Police Magnets and children’s books that allow families to explore together what it means for the people to claim their power.