Today, Grand Rapids District Judge Nicholas Ayoub ruled that former Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr will stand trial for the murder of Patrick Lyoya, a 26 year-old Black refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Schurr is charged with a single count of second-degree murder for shooting Patrick Lyoya in the head at point-blank range during a traffic stop.
Judge Ayoub made the decision after reviewing evidence, including a graphic video of the killing, presented at a two-day preliminary hearing where the prosecution and defense argued whether there was enough evidence to take Schurr’s case to trial. Schurr has pleaded not-guilty.
That Schurr will be charged is welcome news to the movement in Grand Rapids in particular as well as the broader movement against police brutality and systemic racism. Activists in Grand Rapids continue to organize, even in the face of systematic repression by the Grand Rapids Police Department and Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker. This repression was recently expressed in the outrageous imprisonment of activist Brittany “B” Hawkins for spray painting a police barricade and for possessing a personal taser, which they carry for their own protection. Republican Circuit Court Judge Curt Benson imprisoned B for three months on these minor charges, which would normally not result in prison time, illustrating the lengths the state will go to repress the movement to win justice for Patrick Lyoya and other victims of police brutality. Several other movement leaders in Grand Rapids are also facing charges, including felonies, for protesting Patrick’s murder.
Organizers, including those with Detroit Will Breathe, have circulated a call for B’s release. Supporters are encouraged to call Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office at (517) 335-7858 to demand that Whitmer use her gubernatorial powers to defend the democratic right to protest, pardon B, and secure their immediate release from prison.
B’s case demonstrates that although Schurr’s charging is a victory for the movement, the fight for justice is far from over. The state was forced to charge Schurr in an attempt to quell the movement. But activists know that Schurr is one bad cop in a rotten system. Cops across Michigan and the country unleash unspeakable violence against Black people, poor communities, the working class, and so many others.
Through the cops and the courts, the state is locking up activists like B — and many other political prisoners from BLM and other movements — to dissuade dissent against this evil and repressive system. From Patrick Lyoya to B, we can see that the police are little more than armed thugs who enforce capitalism’s reign of exploitation and oppression.
To truly win justice for Patrick, B, and other activists facing charges in Grand Rapids and across the US, we need to continue to organize against not just the police but the system they uphold.