The Kalamazoo (Michigan) Department of Public Safety released body cam and personal videos of the skirmishes that occured during a Proud Boys march on August 15, showing how the confrontations between Proud Boys and counter protesters developed.
KDPS Chief Karianne Thomas outlined three main events of contact between the hate group Proud Boys and counter protesters. Police pointed to a counter protester throwing a frozen drink at a Proud Boy as the first act of aggression. Another counter protester entered the march to block the Proud Boys, and pepper spray was used by the Proud Boys as defense. A physical skirmish devolved. Police said pepper spray was legal to use as self-defense when punches were thrown.
KDPS identified the first person who entered the crowd, a homeless man who was aligned with the counter-protesters, as being a primary instigator in at least the first two fights.
While Thomas said the Proud Boys clearly came to town with the goal of provoking people, KDPS noted that the counter-protesters showed up to downtown armed with batons and bats and at least one person with what Assistant Chief Vernon Coakley described as a “shank.” Members of the Michigan People’s Defense League, which says on its website that it protects communities from fascists, were also on hand armed with long guns. No shots were fired at any point.
Police also explained their strategy to have a less obvious show of police presence, noting that protests earlier in the summer may have ratcheted up tensions with the police present in riot gear.
Although several people were arrested that day, including an MLive reporter, the city attorney and county prosecutor declined to press charges against most. One person is being charged with resisting and obstructing after allegedly punching an officer.