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Bipartisan support for more state funding for policing in Michigan

July 5, 2022

The 2023 State Budget is receiving bipartisan support, with several issues being highlighted by Gov. Whitmer and other State Legislators.

One are in particular that will receive millions more in public money is the Michigan State Police Department.

In a statement released by State Senator Mark Huizenga, he highlighted funding for police and corrections, stating:

“…..and funding to train and hire 170 state police troopers and train 800 corrections officers.”

State Representative David LaGrand, also had positive words for the 2023 State Budget funding for policing in Michigan:

“I am very glad to support the budget we passed today. I’m especially proud to see that several of my priorities are part of the final budget, including funding for public safety. We’ve included grants for community policing….”

The 2023 Michigan Budget includes the following for policing. After each funding allocation, GRIID provides some commentary.

  • $9.2 million to support a Trooper Recruit School (general fund) anticipated to graduate 50 new troopers in addition to the 120 troopers that are anticipated to be hired and trained using existing attrition savings. This investment allows the department to increase enlisted strength to nearly 2,200 while continuing to increase the diversity of uniformed personnel. GRIID Comments: More funding to recruit more cops does not translate into safer communities. Over and over again, the public is mislead into believing this major fallacy of more police, safer communities. See the report, Cops Don’t Stop Violence.
  • $3.7 million to improve Data Collection during Traffic Stops (general fund) through the development of new tracking and documentation systems including a benchmarking dashboard and increasing data collected during traffic stops to allow for easier review and analysis of traffic stops made by the State Police. These improvements will build upon the recommendations of the recent Michigan State University Traffic Stop Study. GRIID Comments: Last year, the Michigan State Police had conducted a traffic stop study, which concluded there was racial disparity by their department. Despite this, the public will provide more money to tell us what we already know about policing, traffic stops and racial profiling. 
  • $3 million to expand Training and Professional Development (general fund) to provide training on cultural competency, implicit bias, and decision-making to expand positive interactions between department members, minority groups, and the diverse communities that the department serves. GRIID Comments: There are numerous studies demonstrating that racial sensitivity and cultural competency training for police departments are ineffective. As Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing states, “Diversity and multicultural training is not a new idea, nor is it terribly effective. Most officers have already been through some form of diversity training and tend to describe it as politically motived, feel-good programming divorced from the realities of street policing. Researchers have found no impact on problems like racial disparities in traffic stops or marijuana arrests; both implicit and explicit bias remain, even after targeted and intensive training. This is not necessarily because officers remain committed to their racial biases, though this can be true, 19 but because institutional pressures remain intact.”
  • $1.8 million to establish a Victim Services Program (general fund) that will support 14 full-time Victim Advocates across the state. These positions will serve to support victims’ needs early in their interactions with the criminal justice system while also building partnerships with community organizations in support of victim advocacy. GRIID Comments: There should be funding for victims of crime, but it should not go to the Michigan State Police. Funding for crime victims should go through the Department of Social Services. 
  • $1.1 million to increase the department’s capacity to Prevent, Detect, and Investigate Cybercrimes (general fund). This investment will support statewide investigatory assistance and digital forensic examinations to further the department’s position as a leader in areas of cyber security, computer crimes, and digital evidence. GRIID Comments: Cyber crimes prevention, detection and investigation should also not be done by the Michigan State Police. Such categories are nothing more than justifications for police departments to receive more funding.
  • $1 million for Trooper Recruitment (general fund) to broaden the racial, ethnic, and gender makeup of the department to make it more representative of the communities it serves. This investment will support digital marketing campaigns, recruiting events, and improved public relations to assist the department in achieving its recruiting goals for enlisted positions. GRIID Comments: Recruiting and hiring more cops based on gender, race and ethnicity will NOT address the deep seated lack of trust between the police and the public. Do you think it matters that having a Black cop arrest you, beat you or shoot you is any better than a white cop doing the same?

This comes to about $20 million, which is on top of the massive amount of money the Michigan State Police receives as part of their standard operating budget each year. Have we learned nothing in the past few years? More and more of the public are demanding defending of police departments and the re-allocation of those funds to go towards community needs such as housing, health care, food security and education. The 2023 Michigan Budget demonstrates once again that more money for cops is a bipartisan project. 

Skill sharing and Direct Action: Civil Disobedience Training set for Sunday, July 10 in Grand Rapids

July 5, 2022

The late, great radical historical, Howard Zinn, once wrote:

As soon as you say the topic is civil disobedience, you are saying our problem is civil disobedience. That is not our problem…. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. And our problem is that scene in All Quiet on the Western Front where the schoolboys march off dutifully in a line to war. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world, in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country.

Zinn was not writing these words as some theoretical reflection, he was writing them in the context of the way that the system was dealing with members of the Black Freedom Struggle, along with those resisting US Imperialism in Vietnam. Zinn also wrote these words just after he arrested in November of 1970, where is was protesting at a US Military base, attempting to stop a load of soldiers who were being sent to Vietnam.

Civil Disobedience has been a centuries old tactic, used by political dissidents and other revolutionaries who were committed to Direct Action as a primary strategy for social change. People resisting wars have used it for over a century in the US. Black activists and white allies used it during the 1950s – 1970s part of the Black Freedom Struggle. Some example from then were – Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus, the lunch counter protests, the freedom rides, and marches that were not sanctioned by the authorities.

Civil disobedience has been used by the group ACT Up, the Environmental Justice Movement, the Central American Solidarity Movement, the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Disability Justice Movement, and so many more. 

The power of civil disobedience is the intention defiance of the law, to not only amplify the issue that people are protesting, but to disrupt the business as usual approach to protesting. 

On Sunday, there is a Civil Disobedience training being offered in Grand Rapids, which you can sign up for by going to this link. The training will include role playing, Civil Disobedience 101, jail solidarity, courtroom solidarity and media messaging. 

This particular training is for allies who can leverage their privilege in the Justice4Patrick Movement that is currently happening in Grand Rapids. Those who participate in the training might be asked by Black leadership to use the skills learned for an action. BIPOC people are also welcome to participate, but the intention is to get more allies committed to this kind of Direct Action, in part, as a way to take some of the pressure off of Black organizers that are being targeted by the GRPD.

The training lasts two hours, but you need to register for the training by sending an e-mail to sjeff987@gmail.com. 

Lastly, the training is intended to be a safe space, so no cops, no cop sympathizers, no racists and no other forms of oppressive behavior will be tolerated. If you plan to attend this training, you will need to either know people who are already part of this movement or bring documentation/evidence that you are connected to those in the movement. 

Latest Amway announcement on ending operations in Russia is all about the loss of markets

June 30, 2022

In March, we posted our response to Amway’s announcement that they were temporarily suspending operations in Russia and Ukraine because of the Russian invasion

In that post from earlier this year we stated: 

So, Amway does their best to avoid demonstrating any real solidarity with the Ukrainian people, nor do they empathize with the harsh realities that civilians are facing in Ukraine because of the Russian invasion. What Amway does do, is to constantly promote themselves and their capitalist values. In the end, the Amway corporation is not pausing operations because of human rights, they are only pausing operations because it would be an embarrassment to continue doing business in Russia. If Russia and Ukraine negotiate a peace settlement, you can bet that Amway will be back in Russia, attempting to create more little capitalists, regardless of the repressive political realities under the Putin regime.

Three and a half months later, the Ada-based global marketing giant has made another announcement about finally ending their operations in Russia. Here is their full statement:

Earlier this week, we shared with our employees and Amway Business Owners (ABOs) that Amway’s global Board of Directors has made the decision to cease operations in Russia. This follows our announcement on March 14th, 2022, on the suspension of product imports.

This is the first time in Amway’s 63-year history that we have left a market. What makes this such a heartbreaking decision is our enduring belief in offering an economic opportunity, meant for everyone. After exploring all possible options, we have reached a point where economic, technological, organizational, and operational circumstances have made it impossible for us to operate in Russia.

Beginning July 1, we will be thoughtfully and responsibly winding down our operations there. We are focused on providing support to those impacted by this decision; and on treating all with openness, dignity, and respect while meeting our contractual and statutory obligations.

Amway employees and ABOs in Russia have been a part of our family for 17 years and we are endlessly grateful to them for their dedication and for inspiring us with their entrepreneurial spirit.

This latest announcement is worth deconstructing, something that local media sources like MLive will not do.

First, like in their March 2022 announcement, Amway makes it all about them. In their brief statement, Amway uses their own name four times. In addition, Amway center’s their business owners in Russia.

Second, the pyramid scheme company further’s their narcissism by saying, “This is the first time in Amway’s 63-year history that we have left a market. What makes this such a heartbreaking decision is our enduring belief in offering an economic opportunity, meant for everyone.” 

Third, never does the Amway announcement discuss the difficulties that the Russian invasion of Ukraine – which continues to divert public money for militarism rather than human needs – has caused regular Russia people, whom they claim to champion. There is also no statement of solidarity with the Russian or Ukrainian people, both of whom are suffering from the violence of the invasion and the economic consequences of that invasion. No, we are sad because we are missing out on pushing our products in a market!

This latest Amway announcement is rather instructive, especially since it exposes the core of the Amway business ethos, which is nothing more than the ethos of Capitalism. It all comes down to expanding markets and profit margins, without even a hint of humanity or solidarity for the people of two countries that will be impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, nor the role that the US and NATO are playing to expand their area of influence. Maybe Amway can recoup their profit loses in Russia by become the official sponsor of the US military and their NATO allies. Soap and vitamins for everyone!

The US Supreme Court ruling against Roe v Wade has brought calls for a July 4th boycott, which centers whiteness

June 30, 2022

The US Supreme Court’s decision to terminate Roe v Wade has been devastating news for people around the country. 

Protests have erupted in numerous cities and communities throughout the nation, with the expected police repression. People are angry, and rightfully so. The end of Roe v Wade will impact anyone wanting to have an abortion, but it will particularly impact those who are forced to live with economic insecurity, along with BIPOC, queer and Trans communities, all of which will disproportionately be impacted by the criminalization of abortion.

Within the past week, there have been calls coming mostly from white women to boycott the Fourth of July. There have been memes circulating on social media, like the ones displayed below.

Again, I get the anger and I get the motive to boycott July 4th. However, this sentiment demonstrates a great deal with what is wrong with how we understand history in this country, and how white privilege is once again being displayed in the calls for a Fourth of July boycott.

The Fourth of July holiday is designed to get people to passively accept the premise that the US fought and won independence and freedom from the British, wherein the residents of the newly created nation would experience liberty and justice for all.

This all sounds nice and makes for great propaganda, but it completely ignores the history of oppression and exclusion that has plagued the US since it was founded. For those pissed off about the Roe v Wade decision, and calling for a Fourth of July boycott, demonstrates not only the level of their white privilege, it demonstrates their ignorance and complicity in crimes this country has committed against so many people. What follows is a brief list of why the Fourth of July could and should always be boycotted:

  • The US has engaged in genocidal policies against Indigenous people/nations on this continent since the founding of the US. White Settler Colonialism has been the primary driving force, which has included the outright slaughter of Indigenous people, the forced removal from their lands, the repeated violation of treaties, forcibly removing Indigenous children from their communities and putting them in so-called “Boarding Schools,” and the denial of Indigenous people to celebrate their own spiritual traditions for most of the past 250 years. For an excellent resource, see Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz’s book, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. 
  • If people haven’t read it, they should read Frederick Doughlass’ famous 1852 speech, entitled, “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?” Douglass calls out the realities of slavery and denounces the blind celebration of July 4th, by saying, “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”
  • While Chattel Slavery was outlawed by the end of the Civil War, the US legal and economic systems made sure that Black people were still denied freedom and independence. The 13th Amendment essentially made slavery legal again, a theme which is explored in AvaDuVernay’s 2016 award winning documentary, 13th. In addition, the history of lynching, red-lining, legal segregation, the War on Drugs, mass incarceration, gentrification and the ongoing efforts to dismantled legal gains made by the Black Freedom Struggle/Civil Rights Movement, ultimately demonstrates that Black people have never been afforded the same freedom as white people in this country.  
  • The history of US immigration policy has excluded millions of people from coming to and be accepted into US society. From the Chinese Exclusion Act in the late 19th Century, the refusal of the FDR Administration to welcome thousands of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, to the brutal treatment of people fleeing poverty, political oppression and climate catastrophe from Latin America since the 1960s, the US has consistently excluded millions of immigrants seeking asylum and safety. See our popular education tool, History of US Immigration Policy.
  • The US has a bloody history towards working class people, which has always been directed by the Capitalist Class, with assistance from the state and the state’s main enforcement mechanism, the police. From the earliest efforts to win labor struggles in the early part of the 19th Century, the harsh repression of radical union organizing in the late 19th Century through the 1930s, and the ongoing Capitalist Class’s war against working people, evidenced by the efforts against Amazon and Starbucks workers, most people living in this country have never experienced economic freedom or independence. See Kim Kelly’s book, Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor. 
  • The US has consistently marginalized and repressed people who are part of the LGBTQ community, those who are gender non-conforming; religious minorities, especially Muslims, those in the disability community, anti-war dissidents, radical environmentalists and so many other communities that the systems of power in this country have never accepted and have often brutalized. 

In addition, to the white privileged calls to boycott the Fourth of July, many white-centered organizations and white individuals have been using additional memes to reflect their anger towards the current US Supreme Court Justices, where they refer to them as the American Taliban, even changing the images of the 6 Supreme Court Justices that voted against Roe v Wade to look like members of the Taliban. 

In a recent post on Dissident Voice, Tom Wheeler writes: Using phrases like “American Taliban” or invoking the term “sharia law” to attack the ruling of Christians on the court is all the rage after the recent Roe v. Wade decision. Once again, we have people—primarily liberal white people—engaging in racist, Islamophobic tropes. Muslim activists, scholars, and researchers have repeatedly pointed out this racism and Islamophobia for years, apparently to no avail. This needs to stop. Islam isn’t the problem. It’s Christianity. The six judges who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade aren’t Muslim. They’re Christian. The oppression in America is home-grown Christianity. It’s as American as apple pie.

Wheeler goes on to cite professor Nazia Kazi at Stockton University, who points out, “it reflects this assumption that Muslim women are uniquely oppressed and that American or western women are remarkably liberated. From both the American common sense public imagination, right on up to the seats of power, there’s this impulse to externalize that which actually is endemic to the US itself.”

What this all comes down to is the failure of white liberals to fully understand or acknowledge the real history of the US, along with the fact that too many white liberals don’t really give a damn about other people’s struggles for freedom and liberation. Calling for a boycott on the 4th of July because of the recent US Supreme Court ruling, is a reflection of the fact that too many white people knowingly or unknowingly embrace the values of White Supremacy. 

2022 West Michigan Candidate Policy Platforms: State Representative Races

June 28, 2022

Over the next few weeks, we will be posting information and links to candidate websites and/or social media pages so that people can see what their policy positions are and what they say they will do if elected. 

So far we have looked at the candidates and their policy platform information for the 3rd Congressional race and the State Senate races. Today, we will look at the State Representative races.

We do this in part, since we cannot rely on the dominant commercial news media to provide this information or any robust analysis of the policy platforms of those running for office.

In late July we will also be posting information on campaign financing for these same candidates, so that people have as much information as possible about candidates before the August Primary and the November 2022 Election.

Now, personally I identify politically as an anarchist, so I don’t put much stock in representative democracy or the electoral process. However, I do think it is important for people to think critically about the political/electoral process that currently exists.

In today’s post, we look at State Representative races in the West Michigan area. As a State Representative, these candidates will be voting on a wide range of critical issues, such as, funding for the prison industrial complex, the public education budget, environmental justice issues – like Line 5, affordable housing, supporting a living wage, rent control, housing evictions, police funding, subsidies for corporations, water quality, water diversion rights, immigration issues like Driver’s Licenses for All, nuclear power, renewable energy sources, mass transit, tax policies, adoption, child care, racial discrimination, regulating the real estate industry, diverting public money towards private education, labor union support, cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, regulation of pesticide use, mining issues, climate change policies, gun control, gentrification and structural racism.

As an anarchist, I believe that my aspirations and the desire to work towards Collective Liberation is rarely reflected in the electoral/representative democracy process. Where are the candidates who are publicly anti-capitalist and anti-racist? Where are the candidates that oppose the homophobic and transphobic policies and practices in this country and in this community? Where are the candidates that are anti-colonialist, who believe that Indigenous sovereignty and land should be a priority? Where are the candidates that are committed to reparations for Black people? Where are the candidates who believe that housing, income, education and health care are fundamental rights? Where are the candidates who are committed to resisting the current climate crisis and oppose things like the Enbridge Line 3 and Line 5? Where are the candidates that want to deal with root causes of problems, instead false solutions perpetuated by charitable groups and the Non-Profit Industrial Complex? Where are the candidates that not only support labor unions but actively work to support workers to create workplace democracy? Where are the candidates who support reproductive justice? We all deserve a better world and we need to support politics the dismantles systems of power and oppression. 

Below are the candidates for the State Representative Districts located in the Greater Grand Rapids Area, which includes ten separate races. In looking at all of their campaign platform/policy pages, no one stands out as embracing positions that many social movements have been demanding. The language is often vague, with little substance, and almost always these candidates avoid language that seeks to work towards structural or systematic change. 

State Representative 78th District

Leah Groves D

No online platform

Christine Barnes R

https://www.barnesforstate.com/ 

https://www.facebook.com/TheRealChristineBarnes

Ben Geiger R 

https://www.votegeiger.com/

Gina Johnsen R

https://www.facebook.com/Gina4StateRep 

https://www.youtube.com/c/TheGistofItWithGina

State Representative 79th District

Kimberly Y. Kennedy-Barrington D

https://www.drkim4statehouse.com/

https://www.facebook.com/drkim4statehouse

Ryan Gallogly R

https://www.ryangallogly.com/issues

https://www.facebook.com/RyanGalloglyForStateRepresentative/

Jeremiah Keeler R

https://votekeeler.com/issues.html

https://www.facebook.com/keelerforstaterep

Angela Rigas R

https://angela4mi.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AngelaRigas4MI

State Representative 80th District

Lily Cheng-Schulting D

https://www.lilyformichigan.com/platform

https://www.facebook.com/lilyformichigan

Phil Skaggs D

https://www.philskaggs.com/

https://www.facebook.com/philskaggs

Jeffrey Johnson R

https://www.jj4mi.com/issues

State Representative 81st District

Rachel Hood D

https://www.hoodforthehouse.com/values

https://www.facebook.com/hoodforthehouse

Lynn Afendoulis R

https://www.lynnafendoulis.com/

https://www.facebook.com/LynnAfendoulisForMichigan/

State Representative 82nd District

Salim Mohammed Al-Shatel D

https://www.salimal-shatel.com/

https://www.facebook.com/salim.alshatel

Kristian Grant D

https://electkristiangrant.com/ 

https://www.facebook.com/KristianGrantforStateRep

Robert Womack D

https://www.facebook.com/robertswomack

William Alexander R

https://www.alexander2022.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MichiganCongress

Ryan Malinoski R

https://www.malinoskiformichigan.com/ 

State Representative 83rd District

John Fitzgerald D

https://johnformi.com/

https://www.facebook.com/JohnForMI

Jose Flores D

https://joseflores4staterep.com/

https://www.facebook.com/jose4staterep

Lisa DeKryger R

https://www.lisadekryger4michigan.com/

https://www.facebook.com/LisaDekryger4Michigan

State Representative 84th District

Carol Glanville D

https://voteglanville.com/

https://www.facebook.com/cglanville4house

Mike Milanowski Jr. R

https://www.votemikemilanowski.com/home 

https://www.facebook.com/MikeFor84th

Justin Noordhoek R

https://www.trustinjustin4rep.com/home

Robert Regan R

https://www.facebook.com/regan4michigan

John Wetzel R

https://www.wetzel4michigan.com/ 

https://www.facebook.com/CandidateDistrict84/

State Representative 89th District

Sharon McConnon D

https://www.facebook.com/Sharon-McConnon-For-State-Representative-89th-District-104614108926122 

Luke Meerman R

https://www.facebook.com/MeermanForStateRep 

State Representative 90th District

Meagan Hintz D

No online platform

Kathy Clark R

No online platform

Bryan Posthumus R

https://www.posthumusformichigan.com/

State Representative 91st District

Tammy L. DeVries R

No online platform

Frank J. LaFata D

https://www.facebook.com/votefrankjlafata

Pat Outman R

https://www.patoutman.com/

https://www.facebook.com/PatOutmanforStateRep 

What some of the Far Right groups in Michigan are saying about the end of Roe v Wade

June 27, 2022

As painful as it may be, it is critical that we know what the enemy is saying about the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade. I use the term enemy, since anyone who willingly choses to impose their misogynistic, racist, classist, ablest, heteronormative values on the rest of us, is an enemy. 

In the case of groups that identify as Pro-Life, who wish to control people’s bodies, calling them the enemy is appropriate. They wish to do harm to people, and not just in a legal sense. Here is what the National Right to Life Coalition had to say recently about their wishlist on how the end of Roe v Wade will be enforced:

The model legislation also makes clear that the route to enforcement should be vigilantism, following the lead of Texas’s vile Senate Bill 8. The law permits anyone to file a civil suit against any person who could be deemed to “abet” an abortion — potentially including an Uber driver who takes someone to an abortion appointment, or a therapist or pastor who has counseled a person on ending a pregnancy. The plaintiff need have no personal connection to the abortion seeker or fetus at all. The Texas law incentivizes anti-abortion crusaders to act as bounty hunters, promising $10,000 to those who bring successful suits against abortions performed in violation of the law.

Closer to home, here in Michigan, there has been lots of reactions from the Far Right after the US Supreme Court decision last week, effectively ending nearly 50 years of Roe v Wade. 

The student group Protect Life Michigan wrote on June 25th – Good morning to our post-Roe nation! Human rights are for all human beings—including the unborn—therefore we rejoice that the Supreme Court has overruled Roe v. Wade! 🎉 Yes, they included this fucking party emoji. In addition, there was this gem of a statement, you can see here on the right. Jesus take the wheel!

The Michigan Right to Life released a longer statement, which read in part:

We urge the public and pro-abortion activists to accept this decision without violence and retaliation. The overturning of Roe v. Wade was made possible by working with the legal system and following laws. We know that one day Michigan’s 1931 abortion law will be enforced again, and the unborn will be protected against ableism, sexism, and racism. We will continue to peacefully work towards this through the legal system.

The Michigan Right to Life statement on the end of Roe v Wade, included the graphic below.

Continuing on the theme of the “violence from pro-abortion activists, David Maluchnik, the vice president of communications for the Michigan Catholic Conference, was quoted as saying:

Federal authorities have indicated to organizations across the state that there could be disruptions or other activity that is either violent in nature or efforts to vandalize property to maintain awareness that there’s the possibility for disruptions or violence or vandalism.

It is instructive to note that Federal authorities did not make it a regular practice to send warnings to community-based clinics about potential violence from the Right to Life crowd, particularly in the 1980s and 90s, when attacks against clinics that provided abortions.

The DeVos-created and DeVos funded group, the Michigan Freedom Fund, wrote last week:

Even before the Supreme Court’s decision, violent extremists launched attacks on pregnancy centers, Right to Life offices and innocent bystanders. And Gretchen Whitmer continues to instruct her supporters to “fight like hell.”

Personally, I wish we had a political leader in Michigan who would actually call for Direct Action against organizations that are seeking to control and punish those who want to have an abortion. This is currently not the case. When people like Whitmer say, Fight Like Hell, they mean only if it is legal and within the current electoral framework.

Then there are groups like The Ridge Covenant Church, which used to be on 3 Mile Rd in Walker, but have since moved to Kent City. The pastor of this church begins his weekly video message entitled, Overturning Roe, with these words: 

Not only have we allowed the systematic slaughter of the unborn, but we have publicly funded it. While at the same time of having the audacity to claim we are the valiant defenders of human rights and women’s rights. Human beings are so precious, that they ought never to be enslaved by another. But, if one inconveniences you, in response to your own actions, then you should be able to violently rip them into pieces.

Lastly, the more highbrow religious group, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, had three white men pontificating these sentiments on their podcast:

Why has most of the reaction been about the policy implications flowing from the decision and not what the Supreme Court actually wrote and held in Dobbs? What does that say about civics education in America right now? 

Condescending much?

Again, as painful as it is to read or listen to these words, we have to understand our enemy, in order to combat their sadistic values. Also it is critically important that we come to terms with the fact that these groups are not on the fringe of the Far Right, they are well respected, well funded groups that have significant influence in this state. 

The Ferguson Effect, handling protesters and other fallacies at the GRPD Press Conference on Friday

June 26, 2022

On Friday, Grand Rapids Police Chief held a Press Conference to talk about an “officer involved shooting”, which took place earlier that morning. Chief Winstrom claimed that a GRPD officer, who was in his cruiser, was shot at by someone in a car.

Like the case involving the murder of Patrick Lyoya, the Michigan State Police is now conducting an investigation. 

A 15 minutes video of the Press Conference can be viewed online. Much of the Press Conference had to do with specifics about the shooting, but what I want to focus on is some of the question that were asked by the local news media and the responses from Chief Winstrom.

At around 2:40 into the video, a local reporter asked the question whether or not the shooter was targeting the GRPD cruiser. Winstrom’s response was that he felt that was probably the case, since the GRPD cruiser was not an unmarked vehicle. However, this is all speculation, since there is no evidence of motive as of yet.

At 7:10 into the video, another reporter asked whether this shooting might have been retaliation for the Christopher Schurr (now an ex-cop) shot and killed Patrick Lyoya. Winstrom responded by saying, that was his concern, and they he goes on to use the phrase, the “Ferguson Effect.” Winstrom then refers to the Michael Brown incident – he was also shot and killed by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri – and claims that there is a correlation between police killings of Black people and an increase in violent crime. Winstrom say this happened after the police murder of George Floyd, with “record levels of violent crime.” Winstrom then says this, was his concern after the April 4 police shooting of Patrick Lyoya – again referred to as the “April 4th incident.” Throughout all of this commentary by Chief Winstrom, he offers no evidence that there is a clear correlation between police murdering Black people and an increase in violent crime.

The phrase “Ferguson Effect”, was coined by Heather MacDonald, which Chief Wonstrom named during the Press Conference. What Winstrom didn’t mention is the fact that Heather MacDonald is a senior fellow at the right-wing Manhattan Institute. The use of the phrase, the “Ferguson Effect” was looked at in an article by the media watchdog group, Fairness in Accuracy & Reporting in June of 2015.  The article states: 

The point of the “Ferguson effect,” though, is not to be accurate. It is instead to distract us from the growing evidence about the magnitude and extent of police use of lethal violence in the United States—as powerfully documented just this week by the Guardian and the Washington Post—and to besmirch the #BlackLivesMatter movement. 

It’s a strategy that Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater inaugurated in his campaign in 1964, almost single-handedly turning crime into a political weapon against the civil rights movement.

This is exactly what Chief Winstrom was doing, which the local media seemed to be eating up. WOODTV8 repeated the Ferguson Effect claim in their coverage on Friday.

In addition, the national recognized organization, The Sentencing Project, which looks at racial disparities in crime and sentencing, has written several articles and conducted several studies that debunks the who Ferguson Effect theory. One article in particularly, concludes, In the absence of credible and comprehensive evidence, sounding alarm bells over a “Ferguson effect” or any other putative cause will not help.

At 8:30 into the video, Chief Winstrom states that he thinks that “the criminal element feels emboldened” after the GRPD killing of Patrick Lyoya, since there is a lot of scrutiny of the police and the police tend to “back off” a bit from their work. Again, Winstrom offers no concrete evidence to this claim and no reporter asks for any data to support such a claim.

At 10:45 into the video, another reporter shifts the conversation to the Supreme Court’s ruling to dismantle Roe v. Wade and whether or not the GRPD is prepared to deal with protests. Winstrom says they have been having discussions about this, but that, “we (the GRPD) are very good at handling protests.” As we, and so many others, have noted over the past two years, when the GRPD says they are good at handling protests, they mean they have spent a great deal of energy doing surveillance of protest organizers, suppressing dissent, targeting protest organizers and arresting organizers on bogus or trumped up charges, as they did with two Black organizers during the protest against the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v Wade, Friday evening. 

The GRPD Press Conference ended with a few words from Brandon Davis, who had nothing to add to Chief Winstrom’s comments, other than to say that he was praying that the GRPD officer who was shot at on Friday morning was ok. 

Acton Institute interview with Betsy DeVos on her new book that promotes an ideological agenda that hides behind buzzwords like School Choice

June 24, 2022

Former US Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, has a book out. The book is entitled, Hostages No More: The Fight for Education Freedom and the Future of the American Child. 

Just a few days ago, the far right Think Tank, the Grand Rapids-based Acton Institute, interviewed DeVos about her new book. The interview is worth listening to, even though the Acton podcast host couldn’t contain himself with his glee in interviewing Betsy. I say it’s worth listening to, since I believe that those of us who oppose the likes of Betsy DeVos, need to familiarize ourselves with the arguments and ideological principles that she embraces. If people just plainly reject something, without understanding it, that is not only intellectually inadequate, their rejection might also be based on faulty assumptions, which often leads to faulty responses.

After listening to the interview that the Acton Institute conducted with Betsy DeVos and after reading much of her new book, here are some of my overall responses.

First, DeVos believes that the US public education system is in deep trouble. I agree. The system of public education in the US is deeply dysfunctional and quite often perpetuates harm. I know this from my own experience of going through the K-12 public school system, along with my own critical reading of its history and the work that I have done with groups like Grand Rapids for Education Justice (GREJ). While working with GREJ, we determined that there is a two-tiered school system within the Grand Rapids Public Schools, where a smaller number of students get preferential treatment, while the bulk of GRPS students have limited resources, so much so that the GRPS is content to just graduate them, but not provide them with the necessary tools to be fully human and to fully participate in this society. The difference between groups that want to improve public education and people like Betsy DeVos, is that she wants to fundamentally alter public education, if not dismantle it. In fact, much of the two tiered system with the GRPS, is in part due to the influence that Betsy DeVos and other members of her family have had in that system, particularly the former Superintendent. Also, see our 3 part series entitled, Betsy DeVos and the Covert Privatization of Grand Rapids Public Schools.

Second, Betsy DeVos regularly uses – in her book and during her 30-year commitment to undermining public education – buzzwords and phrases that are often unsubstantiated. For instance, DeVos will say that the biggest roadblock to education reforms are the teacher unions. This primarily is driven by the fact that DeVos and other members of the Capitalist Class despise organized labor. In fact, teacher unions are one of the only reasons why public schools have not already been dismantled in the US. Other phrases that Betsy uses regularly are “government runs schools,” that the “public school curriculum teaches students to hate the country,” and that public education offers no “school choice.” DeVos then uses personal stories to support such claims, stories that are nice and all, but never back up with hard data. In addition, the phrases she uses, to the extent that they are even remotely true, are due to the fact that she and the anti-Public Education network she has helped to create over the past few decades, has been somewhat effective in their efforts.

Third, in the Acton Interview and further explored in her book, DeVos takes aim at certain issues around public education that she uses to attack them. The pandemic has been a great opportunity to attack public schools and teacher’s unions, in part because of how school systems dealt with school closings and masking policies. DeVos claims that parents have become more involved in their children’s schools, which is true, but DeVos fails to mention that this attack of public education has been primarily orchestrated by certain groups that are also part of the anti-Public Education network across the US. For example, parents in Kent County came to school board meetings and government meetings to rage against the system, but this didn’t happen in a vacuum. 

Fourth, the claim that public school curriculum teaches US students to hate the country, is not only ridiculous, it is unfounded. Betsy DeVos claims that the US Constitution is unique and that American Democracy is the best form of government on the planet. To the degree that teachers get students to critically assess such claims and to look at US history through a critical lens, is not teaching students to hate the US, it is teaching students important critical thinking skills. A Betsy DeVos funded and created entity, known as the Michigan Freedom Fund, has railed against Critical Race Theory over the past years, as has the anti-Public Education Network across the country. In addition, while Betsy DeVos claims to celebrate the US Constitution, she and her family have been providing millions in funding to the National Constitution Center, which her brother Doug DeVos is a board member of. The National Constitution Center has its own version of celebrating the US Constitution, one that ultimately protects power, especially from an increasingly organized public.  

Fifth, the former US Secretary of Education spends a whole chapter in her book talking about an idea she created years ago, which she re-packaged while in the Trump Administration, known as Education Freedom Scholarship. This was essentially code for school vouchers, but DeVos and the people around her were smart enough to re-brand it using the word freedom. DeVos announced this program in March of 2019, and has continued to push for it around the country, but particularly in Michigan. The revised language for the campaign to use public money for private and charter schools, is called Let MI Kids Learn.  To date, it is yet to be determined if this effort will get enough signatures to put it on the November 2022 Ballot. 

Lastly, Betsy DeVos claims to be a proponent of free speech, particularly on college campuses. However, her idea of protecting free speech is driven by her desire to protect the speech of those she agrees with, which is primarily those who side with power. However, Betsy DeVos’s claim that she support freedom of speech on college campuses, hold no water, especially when looks at what she said at a speech she gave at Hiilsdale College in October of 2020. DeVos spoke about the evils of socialism, stating:

Too many today—especially among our rising generation—don’t seem to understand the dangers of such a view. They somehow have come to believe that socialism is the cure, not the deadly disease it really is. Tragically, it’s because no one has taught them differently. And worse, some have been indoctrinated to believe not in themselves, but in government.

Betsy then goes on to say: 

So, the unholy mob thinks our economies need redistributing. It thinks our Constitution needs rewriting. It thinks our families need restructuring. One prominent group was explicit about its desire to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.” That’s taken right from the old Marxist playbook. It admits the goal is to “[do] away with private property and [educate] children on a communal basis, and in this way [remove] the two bases of traditional marriage.”

DeVos was a bit more candid about her views, considering this was a Hillsdale College audience, but also because she knew that the Trump Administration was on the verge of being defeated in the November 2020 Election. 

A day after the attempted coup by Trump supporters in 2021, Betsy DeVos formerly resigned from her position as Secretary of Education. We wrote about her letter of resignation, and stated in part:

The fact that DeVos is trying to distance herself from what happened at the US Capitol on Wednesday is also a desperate attempt to deflect the fact that the DeVos family spent millions in the last four years to elect Republicans, many of which have encouraged the White Nationalist who attempted the coup, plus they contributed to Trump’s re-election in 2020.

Lastly, it is worth saying that Betsy’s resignation is just another attempt by those who have benefited from Trumpism to try to save face. The reality is that the resignation of Betsy DeVos was a cowardly act, in a long line of cowardly acts that she and the rest of the Capitalist Class have been committing for a very long time. 

In the end, Betsy DeVos will be using her book tour as another opportunity to mobilize people to join her in the fight against Public Education, just as she has done for the past 30 years. As I have said before, I have nothing but contempt for the likes of Betsy DeVos and her family, but it would be a serious mistake on our part to dismiss her as some sort of a nutcase. The DeVos family is indeed ruthless, but they are not stupid. 

Michigan Senator Gary Peters proposes an even larger US Military Budget, while millions in this country struggle to survive and the world burns

June 23, 2022

Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 23 – 3, to add an additional $45 Billion to the US military budget. The Biden Administration originally requested an increase from the 2022 US Military budget, which was $782 Billion, but the Democratic White House asked for $813 Billion.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s vote to add more makes the US Military’s Budget an astronomically bloated budget, especially considering that millions of people living in the US are struggling to just survive.

One of the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee is Gary Peters from Michigan. Peters, like his predecessor Carl Levin, also voted consistently for a bloated US Military budget, a budget which is larger than the next 14 country’s Military budgets, COMBINED.

William Hartung, a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and the author of numerous books on US military spending, stated recently:

“The administration’s proposal is already higher than spending at the peaks of the Korean and Vietnam Wars and over $100 billion more than at the height of the Cold War,” Hartung said in a statement. “Throwing more money at the Pentagon will not make us safer — it will just divert funds from addressing other urgent challenges like pandemics and climate change that put millions of Americans at risk.”

Additionally, Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, released the following statement:

“The Senate Armed Services Committee’s choice to defy both the president and public opinion and flood the Pentagon with more money is outrageous. Time and again, Congress funnels billions in additional funds to costly weapons programs, war, and defense contractors, while claiming that human needs would ‘cost too much.’ Most Americans oppose efforts to rocket-launch military spending towards a trillion dollars per year. Lawmakers should reject this and champion human-centered spending instead.”

The National Priorities Project has been tracking the cost of war and US Militarism for several decades now, with real-time counters that boggle the mind.  In addition, they look at concrete trade-offs, to demonstrate how the US Military budget could be spent on human needs in this country. You can look at those trade-offs nationally, at the State level or the City level. Based on the 2022 US Military Budget, $370.66 Million leaves Grand Rapids for the US Military budget in tax dollars. Imagine what that kind of money could be used for, especially for the thousands of families that are struggling to pay rent, eat well, have good health coverage, etc.

On the day that the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to increase the US Military budget, Senator Peters released a statement, where he bragged about getting more funding for military bases in Michigan, and massive taxpayer subsidies for private military contractors in the state.

This is what we get when we continue to vote for people like Gary Peters. This is what voting for the lesser of evils looks like. Senator Peters is proposing to increase an already bloated US Military budget, while millions of people in this country can’t afford to survive. Senator Peters wants to increase a massive military budget while the world is burning. How do people justify this this sort of banality?

Once again the Grand Rapids commercial news media presents a narrative that favors the ex-GRPD cop who killed Patrick Lyoya

June 22, 2022

Yesterday, the lawyers who are representing the cop who killed Patrick Lyoya, were in court for a preliminary hearing, as a result of the Kent County Prosecutor’s decision two weeks ago to charge Christopher Schurr with second-degree murder.

However, the news reporting on the court hearing grossly framed the cop who killed Patrick Lyoya in a positive light to a degree that will make it difficult for any juror to find the former-GRPD cop guilty of murder.

Faulting the victim

The MLive article from yesterday, states: 

Lyoya was face down, trying to get up, when the officer shot him in the back of his head. They had fought for control of the officer’s Taser.

This is a distortion of the events that took place. Most reasonable people, upon viewing the videos, would not describe what happened in such a way. Later in the MLive article it repeats the claim that, “The two fought for control of the officer’s Taser.” This claim is followed yet another negative framing, where it states: 

Tests showed that Lyoya had a blood-alcohol level of 0.29 percent, over three times the level a motorist is presumed intoxicated.

The MLive article then continues to present a narrative about the victim, a narrative which suggests Patrick was at fault. 

WZZM 13 also presented a narrative that made it sound like Schurr was just protecting himself, with this sentence:

Lyoya got out of his vehicle to speak with Schurr. After a brief physical struggle, Lyoya was shot in the back of the head and killed.

WZZM 13 also posted an interview with Schurr’s lawyer. There were two things instructive about this interview. First, a reporter (even though we can’t see the person who made the statement) made a statement, saying that the media has been presenting a one-sided view so far. This is absolutely not true, as we have not in numerous deconstructions of the local news, such as a WOODTV8 story from May 2nd, a May 17 story, and an MLive article that presents Schurr in a positive light.

A second point from the channel 13 interview with the lawyer representing Schurr is that he went out of his way to say that he hopes this doesn’t turn into a side show outside the court. This was a backhanded way of marginalizing the Justice4Patrick movement. The lawyer goes on to say the courts will likely not tolerate any sort of “interruptions” or “outbursts” from people.

Providing a platform for the killer cop’s family

However, maybe the most ridiculous story from the local news was from WOODTV8. The piece that channel 8 broadcast last night begins with the two newsreaders saying that this is the first time the public gets to hear from the family of Christopher Schurr. In fact, most of the 2 minute and 12 second story is mostly about Schurr’s family, featuring commentary from his grandfather, with softball questions from the reporter, in an attempt to humanize the ex-cop who shot Patrick Lyoya in the back of the head, while he was face down on the ground. The channel 8 reporter even asked Schurr’s grandfather about how it was to spent father’s day with his son and grandson. Instead of focusing on the court hearing, WOODTV8 felt that it was more important to communicate the feelings of a family member of the ex-cop who murdered Patrick Lyoya.

WXMI 17 did the best job of reporting on the hearing, with minimal commentary, no strongly biased narrative, plus they post video of the entire court hearing, thus allowing people to make up their own minds about what happened in the courtroom.

Overall, the local news coverage from yesterday about the court hearing for the ex-GRPD cop who shot and killed Patrick Lyoya did actual harm to the memory of Patrick Lyoya. This type of news coverage could also play a significant role in determining the outcome of the trial.