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Grand Rapids City Commissioner apologizes after losing his cool during meeting that ended early with three protestor arrests 

Grand Rapids City Hall (Courtesy of grandrapidsmi.gov)

By Kevin Lopez

A Grand Rapids City Commission meeting on July 12 ended early after things got heated between protestors and city officials.

Commissioners had plans to work through their planned meeting agenda, unfortunately, there was a familiar problem at this meeting as protesters grew disruptive and order was lost once again.

During the meeting, a woman was speaking in defense of the police officer being charged with the murder of Patrick Lyoya, and was booed from the crowd.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss told the crowd to be respectful and warned that any disruptions would lead to people being asked to leave the meeting.

Things got so frustrating that First Ward Commissioner Jon O’ Connor walked out of the meeting and swore at protesters.

O’Connor was recorded on video saying: “Fuck off. I’m done with this shit.” Although, it’s unknown who this comment was directed at, it caused quite a stir in the room. 

Later on in the night, a man was asked to leave after shouting and not leaving the microphone. The meeting was adjourned after repeated attempts to get him to stop. Three protesters were subsequently arrested.

In an interview with FOX 17, Bliss said, “I haven’t had a chance to speak to Commissioner O’Connor. The reality is that it’s human nature to get frustrated.”

The Collegiate reached out to O’Connor and received his statement regarding his outburst:

“I want to apologize to my constituents and the entire city for my outburst and use of inappropriate language at Tuesday evening’s city commission meeting,” O’Connor stated. “Like so many others in our community, I am frustrated and unfortunately, I let my emotions get the better of me.”

O’Connor went on to explain his concerns about some protesters acting inappropriately.  

“This group of individuals and their supporters have crossed a line, making it difficult to seek compromise and pursue positive outcomes for the community,” O’Connor stated. “They have come to my home, where my family sleeps, in an attempt to intimidate me, defacing my residence in the middle of the night. These intimidation tactics toward myself and my colleagues are unacceptable and we should not stand for such actions, now or in the future.”

O’Connor went on to explain that he is committed to continue to work for positive change in Grand Rapids and encouraged others to engage as well. 

“Our city, our state and our country have become increasingly polarized and unwilling to seek compromise with civility,” O’Connor stated. “In Grand Rapids, however, we must rise above. I am dedicated to this work and invite others to join in a positive and proactive discourse for a better future for all.”

In her interview with FOX 17, Bliss was adamant that elected officials should be held to a higher standard and that these meetings should be a space that will create dialogue, but not in a disruptive manner.

“We know there is a need to create spaces where we can spend more time in meaningful dialogue with the community. We’re looking at having ward-specific ‘neighborhood night out’ commission meetings,” Bliss said.

The next city commission meeting will take place on July 26, at 7 p.m. at 300 Monroe Ave. NW, on the ninth Floor. For information regarding the commission meeting schedule click here.

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