KALAMAZOO, MI — An MLive reporter arrested while covering a Proud Boys rally in Kalamazoo is no longer in police custody.

Reporter Samuel J. Robinson, 23, was in downtown Kalamazoo the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 15 to cover a rally of the far-right group Proud Boys. Marchers chanted and waved U.S., Trump, and Gadsden flags and other symbols.

The rally drew counter-protesters opposing the group’s ideology. The group has been labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group composed of white nationalists. The group rejects that label, but refers to its members as “Western chauvinists.”

Violence erupted between the opposing sides.

Robinson was recording video footage of the event for MLive via Facebook Live and Twitter. Robinson at 1:49 p.m. tweeted there was no visible police presence as the violence exacerbated.

Shortly thereafter, dozens of police officers arrived at a parking structure where the march had advanced. Many were wearing riot gear.

Footage recorded by Robinson, who is Black, shows he identified himself to police as a reporter as police seemingly took him to the ground. The video abruptly ended with Robinson repeatedly stating he’s being arrested.

Within a few hours, Robinson was released from custody on $100 bond. Records show he was arrested on a charge of impeding traffic.

Samuel Robinson, MLive

“The working press must be assured the right to cover public events that clearly are in the public interest, without reprisals,” said John Hiner, vice president of content for MLive Media Group. “These situations are difficult for all involved, but media who identify themselves are not a part of the event — they are working it, just like the police.”

Footage recorded by others and posted on social media show police marching in formation toward ralliers.

“This is the Kalamazoo Police,” one officer announced on a megaphone to the large crowd. “This gathering is contrary to city ordinances. Your 10 minutes to clear the area have expired. You face arrest.”

Kalamazoo Deputy City Manager Jeff Chamberlain at 6:36 p.m. issued a statement asserting that multiple groups were visibly armed with various weapons, including firearms.

“The Proud Boys headed to the Arcadia Festival Site and were met on Water Street by the opposing groups,” Chamberlain said. “Numerous physical fights broke out among the groups in the area of Water Street and Edwards Street. The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety had developed plans in accordance with the department’s policies for peaceful protests, and also for a response to the event if it were to turn violent, which included over 100 officers from 5 jurisdictions. Once the event turned violent, the officers responded quickly and restored order. To restore order to the area, the officers declared a police zone and dispersed the crowds. This is still an unpredictable situation and we encourage the community to remain safe.”

Prior to the violence, counter protesters held an anti-racism vigil within Arcadia Creek Festival Place

“I think people who showed up were very brave and this was a success,” said Rev. Nathan Dannison, pastor of First Congregational Church and organizer of the counter protest. “As soon as the Proud Boys reached the perimeter of the park, they began to assault some of the homeless people who live around there. That’s what triggered the violence. A lot of bystanders saw what appeared to be a lynching about to take place and that’s when it all exploded.”

Dannison estimated there were about 50 Proud Boys and 150 to 200 counter protesters. He added it was “very obvious the Proud Boys were going after Black people in the crowd; it was clear from the get-go.”

He said a member of his congregation was pepper-sprayed by the Proud Boys while rendering aid to an injured homeless person.

“Anybody who tried to help victims or render aid, the Proud Boys immediately attacked, and pretty viciously,” Dannison said. “I’m convinced if counter protesters were not there, they would have killed somebody.”

He added that he was “very disappointed in the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety” for their handling of the day’s events.

MLive was unable to reach a representative of Proud Boys for comment.

The Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus issued a statement regarding the Proud Boys’ rally and resulting violence, saying its members are appalled.

“The ‘Proud Boys’ are not only deeply racist, misogynistic, and Islamophobic, but also deeply antisemitic,” the statement reads. “When white supremacists gather in an American city carrying Trump flags and shouting racist slogans, then proceed to physically attack peaceful, nonviolent protesters, it is an act of political violence that threatens us all.”

Proud Boys rally in downtown Kalamazoo

Proud Boys rally in downtown Kalamazoo

Noah Arbit, founder and chair of the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus stated, “Today’s shocking and disturbing violence in Kalamazoo should focus the minds of Michigan voters on the stakes of the upcoming presidential election. The prospect of re-electing Donald Trump, whose hate-filled rhetoric provides succor to Jew-haters, racists, misogynists, and Islamophobes across the country, including the ‘Proud Boys’ who showed up today in Kalamazoo, should strike fear into the heart of every Jewish voter in Michigan and across the country. To any Jew who supports Donald Trump, I ask: ‘If the Nazis support this man, how can you?’”

Earlier this year, MLive photographer Nicole Hester was fired upon by Detroit Police Corporal Daniel Debono, 32, as she covered a Black Lives Matter/anti-police brutality protest in Detroit on May 31. Hester was struck by as many as a dozen pellets about the face and body, leaving welts and narrowly missing an eye. She was with her fiancé, freelance photographer Seth Herald, who was working for AFP, and Matt Hatcher, who was shooting for Getty Images.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy on July 20 announced she had charged Debono with three counts of felonious assault — one count each for Hester, Herald, and Hatcher — stemming from the incident.

The photographers were walking when they encountered Debono and two other officers at Woodward Avenue and State Street. They identified themselves as members of the press and had their hands up, asking to cross the street, Worthy wrote in a statement.

As the three began to cross the street it is alleged that Debono fired his weapon at them, striking all three with rubber pellets, Worthy wrote.

The shooting was unprovoked, and at no time did the three complainants do anything to cause the defendant to shoot at them, Worthy wrote.

Read more:

Rally turns violent as Proud Boys met by counter-protesters in downtown Kalamazoo

Rumored Proud Boys event sparks counter vigil in Kalamazoo

Charges issued against Detroit police officer accused of shooting rubber pellets at 3 photographers covering protests

Detroit George Floyd police brutality protest turns violent as police fire tear gas, rubber bullets

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