Man arrested, police shut down public hearing in Saugatuck

Jul 18, 2011

The township is seeking public input on a proposed legal settlement with a billionaire looking to develop property along the Lake Michigan shore.

The public hearing will have to be rescheduled since police shut it down before anyone got a chance to speak. More than 400 people tried to fit into a space that holds half that.

“This was not a good venue to do this,” Saugatuck-Douglas Police Chief Ken Giles said.

There were just too many people for this small high school cafeteria to handle. At least a hundred people lined the hallway, fanning themselves to keep cool. But they couldn’t hear the meeting. Giles says he knew they were getting frustrated.

“I am a township resident too,” Giles pleaded with the crowd before the meeting ended “Deal with this but don’t deal with this this way.

But the crowd would not relent. They chanted “post-pone” and “we can’t hear”. The police shut the doors so the meeting could go on in the cafeteria. Then 70-year-old Gerrit Sturrus tried to keep the doors open, resisting police, and refusing to leave when they asked him to.

“I got a right to be here!” Sturrus screamed.

Three officers struggle to detain him as the crowd boos in shock. He was arrested and the chief says he will likely face disorderly conduct charges Tuesday.

“It kept getting hotter and hotter in this hallway,” Giles said after shutting the meeting down, “I was more concerned with the elderly people…we tried to get them chairs, get them seated but it was just getting hot. Then these people started getting frustrated started chanting and that’s it…they can reschedule this.”

Township officials say they will reschedule the hearing, at a bigger venue, within a couple weeks.