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Far Right news platform Breitbart, posts about the group Defund the GRPD

February 25, 2021

On Monday, the grassroots group known as Defund the GRPD, hosted an online Press Conference to talk about their work and the upcoming panel discussion they were hosting on Community Accountability.

I sat in on that Press Conference, since I am an ally in Defund the GRPD. Several Black organizers with Defund the GRPD spoke about the work of the group, their accomplishments and the upcoming panel discussion, before opening it up to questions from reporters. 

One thing that was obvious to this writer, was that the questions the reporters were asking, reflected that they didn’t really get the organizational framework of Defund the GRPD, nor did they understand the group’s theory of change. Reporters kept wanting to find out if Defund the GRPD was going to pass a charter amendment to challenge the 32% mandated City Budget allocation for the GRPD, which was adopted in 1995.

In the end the Black organizers with Defund the GRPD didn’t leave the reporters anywhere to go, since they stuck to their talking points, which resulted in local news agencies essentially provided an overview of what was said during the Monday Press Conference.

However, this did not prevent other dominant news sources from picking up the story. One dominant news source Breitbart, which caters to the far right, posted a story on the Defund the GRPD Press Conference this past Tuesday. The article that appeared on Breitbart was written by Kyle Olson, with a headline that read, Defund the Police’ Returns: Activists Demand Deep Cut in Michigan

The large photo that appears just below the headline show a masked person in the foreground with several items on fire in the background. The picture is credited to David Ryder, who is a Seattle-based photographer, so the picture has nothing to do with Grand Rapids or Defund the GRPD, but it provides Breitnart readers with the kind of imagery that the far right associates with Black Lives Matter or any other group that is critical of policing in America.

There are also several prominent ads on the page that has the article by Kyle Olson, particularly ads from the NRA on gun purchases and an ad from a pro-israeli group known as Stand for Israel. 

It is also important to note that besides being a reporter for Breitbart, Kyle Olson also has syndicated radio show that airs Saturdays on Michigan stations, called The Kyle Olson Show. Olson is also the founder of a group based out of Muskegon, Michigan called Education Action Group, which hates teacher unions and promotes the same Neo-liberal model of Education that Betsy DeVos does, such as School Vouchers, Charter Schools and the privatization of public education.  

The article by Kyle Olson about Defund the GRPD isn’t particularly bad, since he was relying on what other West Michigan News agencies reported. The article is very short and half of the story consists of Olson cutting and pasting from the Defund the GRPD Facebook page, specifically about the Worst of GR Awards.

While the article on Breitbart is not terribly problematic, the more important issue is that it is on Breitbart. Since Breitbart posted a story about Defund GRPD, it now leaves that group and their organizers open to even more harassment from those who embrace White Supremacist values, which condemns anyone who is critical of or challenges the function of law enforcement agencies, like the Grand Rapids Police Department.

In late January, we wrote a piece that was critical of Kids Food Basket, particularly because their lawyers sent threatening letters to Defund the GRPD organizers. This threat was coming from a liberal non-profit group, so imagine what potential harm could come from the far right audience that relies on Breitbart. If you are an ally, an accomplice in anti-racism work, particularly anti-racism work that is led by Black organizers, you need to not only know about the potential threats to Defund the GRPD, you need to demonstrate your solidarity with their work. Join the Community Conversation on Accountability on Thursday, February 25th at 7pm, listen to what Black organizers are saying and support their work. 

GRIID Class on US Social Movements – Part V: How Social Movements get coopted and other impediments to collective liberation

February 24, 2021

(Over the next 8 weeks, we will be posting a summary of the class we are facilitating on US Social Movements. These posts will include a summary of the discussion, the questions we presented to frame each social movement that is discussed, a timeline and additional books that are relevant to each movement.)

In week 5 of the US Social Movements class discussion, we took a break from looking at historical examples of social movements. 

Instead, we read two chapters from two separate books that both look at some of the major obstacles to social movements. The first piece we read was from the book, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, specifically the chapter from Paul Kivel entitled, Social Service or Social Change?

Kivel writes about the fundamental difference between confronting and dismantling systems of oppression, and what social service agencies and non-profits do, which is to provide individual relief to social problems or to offer mild reformist solutions to structural injustices. 

In addition, Kivel provides important analysis around what he refers to as how social service agencies and non-profits acts as a buffer for systems of power and oppression. If just enough relief can be offered to individuals, then that can often have the affect of pacifying oppressed populations, thus preventing them from engaging in organized resistance or rebellion against White Supremacy, poverty, environmental racism, etc. Several participants noted how well thought out Kivel’s analysis was and that they appreciated the questions included in his chapter, which offer people an opportunity to further reflect on the themes being discussed. 

The second reading used for week 5’s discussion, was a chapter from Lance Selfa’s book, The Democrats: A Critical History. The chapter we used from Selfa’s book is entitled, Social Movements and “The Party of the People.” 

The chapter from Selfa’s book makes the argument that the Democratic Party has a history of co-opting social movements, by getting them to compromise on major social issues or to spend their time and energy getting Democratic candidates elected, only to later be betrayed or disappointed by those who were elected. 

Selfa makes his argument by providing several historical examples from the US Labor Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. Selfa also talks about the women’s movement, the anti-Iraq war movement and the LGBTQ movement as well. 

During the discussion there were several issues raised. One issue was how too often social movements don’t demand enough from partisan politics and too often they eventually endorse Democratic candidates on the premise that, “at least they aren’t as bad as Republicans.” Another issue that came up was the fact that whatever gains that have been made in the US, were won through social movements, not as a gift from those in power. If the US political establishment has ever passed legislation that is beneficial to the general population or to affected communities, it is precisely because social movements have forced policymakers to meet those demands. This was even the case with FDR, who was so afraid of the power of the US Labor Movement that in the end, whatever social policies were adopted, were motivated by wanting prevent the US from a massive worker uprising. 

With both of the readings, participants felt challenged by the analysis presented, but several people also voiced the importance of the arguments presented and how it relates to the history of social movements.

GRPD Strategic Plan update offers hollow reforms and dismissive language towards community calls for structural change, police defunding and a reimagining of community safety

February 24, 2021

In yesterday’s post about some of the Grand Rapids City Commission dealings on Tuesday, we mentioned that they were hosting a “Social Meeting” at 2pm to discuss several strategic plans, including the GRPD Strategic Plan. What follows is our analysis of the briefing provided by Chief Payne, by the Deputy Chief, the Office of Oversight & Accountability, along with some feedback from City Commissioners.

You can find the powerpoint that was used by the GRPD for their presentation at this link, specifically pages 2 – 19. Unfortunately, those presenting the GRPD Strategic Plan were simply reading what was on the screen, which is not the most engaging method of presenting.

One point that was presented was the fact that Mobil GR will now be dealing with parking violations, since that was one of the recommendations from the study done in 2019 by Hillard Heintze LLC, which we reported on at that time. The study makes it clear that 70% of the calls to the GRPD are non-emergency issues that could be dealt with by non-police staff. Parking violations are one of those non-emergency documented in the study, but there are also domestic argument (no assault), alarms going off, noise violations and welfare check that are all non-emergency calls. 

Using Mobil GR to deal with parking violations is a good first step, but now the GRPD is creating new positions like the creation of a Gang Intelligence position, which they state will “prevent further gang violence and hope to interrupt the recruiting of other youth into the lifestyle.” However, its is widely know that if youth are not subjected to poverty, systemic racism and provided strong educational opportunities, they will not be inclined to engage in gang activities, as it is generally defined. In other words, cops are not necessary if we want to do that kind of preventative work. Just moving GRPD officers from one task to a newly created one provides them with the ability to always justify more officers, and therefore the largest percentage of the City’s budget.

The GRPD Strategic Plan report stated that GRPD officers did not record one instance where they had to use deadly force when dealing with those suspected of crime during the first quarter. However, there were a non-numbered amount of times where GRPD officers did use physical force when dealing with those suspected of crime. In fact, at one point Chief Payne said, “Our officers use a great deal of restraint and discretion,” when admitting that physical force was used.

There was also a fair amount of discussion around community engagement, reflected in slides 24 – 27 in the presentation. There was a great deal of talk about meetings, talking to stakeholders (which are never defined), using surveys and even going door to door and talking with residents. At one point the Deputy Chief went as far as to say, “residents we talked to wanted the police in their neighborhoods.” This claim should be taken with great skepticism, since the GRPD offered no data, no methodology, nor did they make clear which residents made this claim. 

Chief Payne then chimed in about community engagement, stating:

We are holding quarterly meetings in the community  and we just had one (LINC and NAACP and a few other organizations). There are groups out there that, I’ll be quite candid, it’s been difficult engaging them in a meaningful way. They have provided some feedback, but it’s feedback that I don’t know how productive it is. We have been will to meet and engage with any groups that have been out there for over the last year and we will continue to do that.

Chief Payne doesn’t name which groups he is referring to, but it would be safe to say that he means groups like Justice for Black Lives and Defund the GRPD, which are autonomous groups that make it a point to meet with city officials in a transparent and public setting. In addition, these groups are calling for a reduction if police funding, with those dollars going directly to the communities most negatively impacted by the way that policing is currently done. Whether he intended to or not, Chief Payne’s candid comments are framed in such a way as to dismiss the local groups, which are part of a larger national movement that is calling into question the function of policing and the harm that state violence has perpetrated on Black communities and other communities of color.

Regarding community engagement, Commissioner Ysasi asked questions about the community surveys on their sentiments on regarding the GRPD. If the GRPD is going to lift up voices of the community, the Commissioner asked which voices and how that will be determined. She also asked what community engagement really means and are action steps being developed based on community feedback? The Commissioner’e comments and question were not really addressed.

These was also a brief presentation about the RFP’s for Violence Reduction that the would work in concert with the GRPD. There were 3 RFPs submitted, with one rejected outright and the other two eventually rejected since they did not meet the requirements of the project. The GRPD and the Office of Public Oversight and Accountability did have some recommendations about how to move forward and was leaning towards contracting with a program like Cure Violence, which several Commissioners endorsed. We wrote about these proposals back in December and pointed out that the only proposals that would be acceptable are those that the GRPD finds acceptable, which would exclude proposals to confront and dismantle structural violence.

Most of the other Commissioners expressed their gratitude to the GRPD for the report and for the work they have done. Commissioner O’Connor also voiced his support of the GRPD Strategic Plan and then stated, “it is doing what we need in this community. They are responding to the rational needs of the community. This isn’t burn it down because its not working. Such a statement was clearly meant to be dismissive of the thousands of people who have called for significant defunding of the GRPD and the allocation of those funds to directly go to Black residents and other communities that have been disproportionately affected by the way policing is done in this community. Such a comment from Commissioner O’Connor are not surprising, considering that he has been more supportive of the GRPD than any other commissioner, he has been the recipient of thousands of dollars of campaigns dollars from the Grand Rapids Police Officer’s Association.

While many people might consider that GRPD Strategic Plan as a success and that it is making “progress,” I would like to suggest that these mild reforms do not address the structural function of the GRPD – targeting Black and Brown residents, criminalizing poverty and homelessness, and protecting political and financial sectors of power. This is the assessment of the Movement for Black Lives and other movements across the US that are demanding a more radical and transformative approach to community safety, which does not rely on state violence, as reflected in the Vision for Black Lives.

It is instructive that the GRPD Strategic Plan presentation ended with them saying, “We will become the safest mid-sized city and most trusted police department in the United States.” However, the GRPD offered no way to actually measure such an outcome or how that would even be measured, just hallow words that do not reflect the lived experience of this directly harmed by the way that policing is done in this community.

The Devil is in the Details 2/23/2021: Economic Outlook, GRPD Strategic Plan and further gentrification along Market Avenue SW

February 22, 2021

This is our fifth installment of this posting, which takes a critical look at Grand Rapids politics and policies, based primarily on the public record, such as committee agendas and minutes.

There are 3 issues we want to focus on in this installment of The Devil is in the Details, one that will be presented during the Tuesday morning meeting of the Committee of the Whole, a second issue that will be discussed during special 2pm City meeting, and the third issue will be voted on during the Tuesday evening City Commission meeting.

During the Committee of the Whole meeting, based on pages 6 – 7 from the Agenda Packet, the City of Grand Rapids will have a briefing on an “Economic Outlook and Recovery Update. This briefing will involve the Upjohn Institute, The Right Place Inc and City staffers. This means that a Think Tank that embraces the fundamental premises of Capitalism – Upjohn Institute; a pro-business entity and part of the Grand Rapids Power Structure (look at who sits on their Board of Directors) – the Right Place Inc; and City staff will be speaking during the briefing. This means that no one or no entity that represents working class people, people experiencing poverty or those who have a critical analysis of Capitalism, will be presenting at this briefing to provide an “Economic Outlook.” Not exactly a diversity of opinions and disciplines.

The second issue of concern will be discussed during the special meeting at 2pm on Tuesday, where the GRPD will provide an update on their Strategic Plan, “including the transition of parking enforcement to the Mobile GR Department and the evidence-based violence reduction RFP” – based on page 4 of the Agenda Packet.  GRPD Police Chief Payne will present and disclose the Request for Proposals for violence reduction, which should be very instructive.

Lastly, during the Tuesday evening City Commission meeting there will be a resolution to adopt a proposal from “Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Exemption Certificate Application for the project at 470 Market Avenue SW.”  3F Properties, LLC will create 167 market rate apartments – re: expensive – at 470 Market Avenue SW, which is an old warehouse building. A short description of the project can be found on pages 162 – 163 of the Agenda Packet. 

3F Properties is a Chicago-based developer, which begs the question why isn’t this project going to a local entity? More importantly, this project will coincide with the other major development project on Market Avenue, which is to say the DeVos-controlled Amphitheater project at 201 Market Avenue SW. Both the 210 Market Avenue SW project and the 470 Market Avenue SW project will radically alter the dynamics of that part of the city, making it a more economically affluent area. Five or ten years down the road, if I was a betting person, I would guess that a great deal of this area will be transformed into another upscale hub, which would further threaten nearby poor/working class neighborhoods along Grandville Avenue and in the Black Hills neighborhood along Godfrey Avenue SW. 

West Michigan Far Right Watch for the week of February 14 – 21: Corporate Welfare, eulogizing Rush Limbaugh and Patriot hypocrisy

February 20, 2021

Welcome to the next installment of West Michigan Far Right Watch, where we keep tabs on the far right in this area and provide a summary of what they are up to and what kind of messages they are promoting in this community. As a matter of clarification, when we say the Far Right, we mean those in the streets who fight to defend White Supremacy, those who promote far right ideology, and those with political and economic power.

We have 3 examples for this installment. The first installment for the West Michigan Far Right Watch comes to us from the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. The State of Michigan has awarded the business sector in Michigan $39 million in public funds for their Going Pro Talent Fund. This Going Pro Talent Fund is designed to redirect public funds to employers to train their workforce to “meet real-time demand.” Why are public funds being used as a form of corporate welfare? This money, which could go directly to provide relief to families across the state, is instead assisting the private sector to make more money. Why are Capitalist even relying on government assistance? I always thought that Capitalists hated big government, especially if it means that government intervenes in the “free market.” This use of public money for private benefit, which the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce celebrates, is exactly why the Chamber is included in this week’s West Michigan Far Right Watch.

Our second example for this week is the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. The Acton Institute is regularly part of the West Michigan Far Right Watch and this week they are once again deserving of making this list.

The Acton Institute has 3 recent posts on their website that are worth drawing attention to. The first is their condemnation of the proposed $15 an hour federal minimum wage. The far right Think Tank makes the claim that increasing the minimum wage, “is only likely to prolong pandemic pain for America’s most vulnerable businesses and workers.” Such a claim is one of the long-standing arguments from the Capitalist Class and those who defend this class, even though it is patently false. When exactly has the Acton Institute been concerned about the well being of workers?

The Acton Institute also posted a condemnation against environmental groups that are wanting to criminalize the actions of various industrial sectors that are major contributors to pollution and climate change, such as the oil industry, fracking, cattle ranching, commercial fishing, mining and agribusiness. The Acton Institute post even goes so far as to defend the Albert Tar Sands industry for being environmentally responsible. This defense of those who destroy and disregard the environment is nothing new for the Acton Institute, especially since the Acton Institute has received at least $315,000 from ExxonMobil to deny climate change.

The third reason why the Acton Institute made our far right list this week, was their eulogizing of the hate mongering White Supremacist Rush Limbaugh. The Acton Institute particularly shared Rush Limbaugh’s hatred of Socialism.  

Our last example for this week in West Michigan Far Right Watch is the American Patriot Council. In a recent blog post, the American Patriot Council denounced Andrew Cuomo for COVID deaths of nursing home residents. While we think that Cuomo deserves to be scrutinized for this issue, it is a bit hypocritical for the American Patriot Council to call out politicians for such actions, when they have consistently called the COVID crisis a hoax and refuse to wear masks in support of public health. This was the American Patriot Council’s motive for organizing anti-lock down protests in Lansing and Grand Rapids last year. Their blog post on this topic is even more absurd by promoting the candidacy of Ryan Kelley for Governor, especially considering the blog post was written by either Kelley or AMC co-founder Jason Howland.

GRIID Class on US Social Movements – Part IV: The Anti-Vietnam War Movement

February 19, 2021

Over the next 8 weeks, we will be posting a summary of the class we are facilitating on US Social Movements. These posts will include a summary of the discussion, the questions we presented to frame each social movement that is discussed, a timeline and additional books that are relevant to each movement.

In the 4th week of the class on US social movements, we looked at the Anti-Vietnam War  Movement, by reading chapter 18 from Zinn’s book, entitled, The Impossible Victory: Vietnam! The first part of the chapter was devoted to US policy towards Vietnam and in South East Asia after WWII. The US had sided with the French in maintaining their colony in Vietnam, which included providing weapons, then military advisors and eventually US soldiers to fight against the Vietcong. Some people in the class accurately identified what US policy towards Vietnam was, an imperialist policy. 

The second part of chapter 18 from Zinn’s book talked about the ways in which people opposed the war and how it became a powerful movement in just a few years. Some of the earliest forms of resistance were from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, encouraging other Black students to not enlist in the military and to resist the draft. People also identified the large marches that took place during both the Johnson and Nixon administrations, along with boycotts, civil disobedience and the powerful GI resistance movement to the war. Some of the participants had watched the film Sir, No, Sir, which provides a deep look into the various ways that US soldiers resisted participating in the killing of the Vietnamese people.

Like we have done in pervious posts, we used our 8 framing questions for discussion during the 4th class and a timeline for this movement. 

  1. What are the systems of power and oppression that existed during the period of history being discussed, and more importantly, what were the systems of power and oppression that the social movement was confronting, challenging or seeking to dismantle? Ending US imperialism was the primary system of power, but it was also combined with Capitalism, Colonialism and White Supremacy. 
  2. What else was happening in the country or around the world that may have influenced how both the systems of power/oppression and the social movement responded? The group talked about the growing international anti-colonial movement, the broader pattern of US imperialism in other countries and how the Civil Rights/Black freedom Struggle had influenced the Anti-Vietnam War Movement.
  3. In what way(s) did the social movement organize itself. Centralized, decentralized, autonomous, etc. Participants recognized that most organizing was decentralized, with numerous groups and communities all across the US, that were involved in a variety of anti-war organizing efforts. 
  4. What were the goal(s), strategies and tactics of the social movement? The main goal was to end the war, although some groups sought to end US militarism and US imperialism. Some strategies employed were economic, others were the use of Direct Action, plus the always necessary media and education strategy. Tactics utilized were draft resistance, the burning of draft cards, draft resisters going to Canada, churches offering sanctuary to draft resisters, GI newspapers, soldiers going AWOL, marches, sit ins, teach-ins, campus organizing, speeches, poetry, music and getting high profile people involved in the anti-war effort.
  5. How did the system of power/oppression push back against the demands and gains made by the social movement? Some of the most common forms of push back from systems of power were to marginalize anti-war organizers, character assassination, arresting people, giving heavy fines and longer jail sentences, police violence against protesters, expelling students from campus and tying people up in long/expensive court battles.
  6. Were their intersectional aspects of the struggle the social movement was engaged in? As was mentioned earlier, there was the Civil Rights/Black Freedom Struggle’s influence on the anti-war movement, but there was also influence from the growing feminist movement, the gay liberation movement and the broader peace/countercultural movement as well.
  7. How did the social movement impact other existing or future social movements? The Anti-Vietnam War Movement certainly impacted those involved in the Civil Rights Movement, with people like Dr. King who eventually became a major critic of the war, as well as influencing other movements, like the gay liberation movement to be more militant in its approach. 
  8. How was the social movement compromised or co-opted, and by which external forces were they compromised or co-opted? Like most movements, partisan politics sought to co-opt people with so-called “peace candidates.” There were also attempts to co-opt the movement with the idea of dropping out of society, which was advocated by White, economically privileged people, along with an emphasis on personal peace, that often did not encourage resistance to war. 

Here are some addition resources to further explore the Anti-Vietnam War Movement:

Vietnam: the last war the US lost, by Joe Allen

A People’s History of the Vietnam War, by Jonathan Neale

The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine

The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman

Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal, by Howard Zinn

Waiting for an Army to Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange, by Fred Wilcox

Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since WWII, by William Blum

The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, by Alfred McCoy

Cambodia: 1975 – 1982, by Michael Vickery

The Pentagon Papers, published by the New York Times

Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture, by Noam Chomsky

The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam, by Jerry Lembcke

Winter Soldiers: An Oral History of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, by Richard Stacewicz

American Insurgents: A Brief History of American Anti-Imperialism, by Richard Seymour

Desertion and The American Soldier: 1776 – 2006, by Robert Fantina

Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism, by L.A. Kauffman 

Films

Winter Soldier

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers 

The Camden 28

Investigation of a Flame

Sir, No, Sir

Another DeVos investment venture: More for the Capitalist Class, to hell with everyone else

February 18, 2021

On Sunday, the business-centered publication MiBiz, posted a story about a new Capital Investment Fund that is being spearheaded by Doug & Maria DeVos.

According to MiBiz, “The DeVoses’ Continuum Ventures LLC has partnered with Grand Rapids-based Auxo Investment Partners to manage the new Michigan Opportunity Fund.” For those unfamiliar with Continuum Ventures LLC, it is the investment company for Doug & Maria DeVos, their children and their children’s spouses.

The focus of the DeVos investment company, Continuum Ventures LLC, is reflected on their website, with these three areas of focus:

  • Business: Focused on business ownership and investments that drive mutual benefit and value to our customers, employees, communities and shareholders.
  • Community: Committed to helping people realize their potential and building vibrant communities for a better tomorrow.
  • Civic Engagement: Engaged champion and advocate for good public policy that breaks down barriers that inhibit success and advancement of people.

It is worth deconstructing these three areas. When the DeVos family says Business and Community, they really mean the business community. Their commitment to wealth accumulation has been demonstrated for decades, initially though the Amway Corporation, then RDV Corporation, the Windquest Group, DP Fox Ventures and CWD Real Estate Investment, just to name a few. The DeVos family didn’t amass billions over the years because they care about community the amassed their wealth by exploring workers, using their Amway pyramid scheme and by buying political candidates to further their interests. When the DeVos family says Civic Engagement, they really mean buying politicians who will implement public policy that benefits their interests and the other members of the Capitalist Class. During the last election cycle, the DeVos family contributed millions to the GOP, including substantial contributions to the re-election of Donald Trump. See more details in our publication A DeVos Family Reader at this link. https://griid.org/reports/ 

In the MiBiz article, Doug DeVos is quoted as saying he wants to support businesses financially and by connecting them to other community partners, which means to other people who are part of the Capitalist Class and the Grand Rapids Area Power Structure. 

Two groups that DeVos cites in the article are the West Michigan Policy Forum, where he serves on the board of directors, and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. GRIID has been monitoring both of the groups for more than a decade and these two groups have demonstrated over the over how they are committed to wealth accumulation for the Capitalist Class while promoting public policy that disproportionately harms workers, the Black Community and other communities of color.

One of the initial investors in the Michigan Opportunity Fund is Roger Penske, the 83-year-old chairman of Bloomfield Township-based Penske Corp. According to OpenSecrets.org, Roger Penske has also contributed millions to the Republican Party, which is a clear indicator to where his allegiances are……with the Capitalist Class. Don’t be fooled by this new DeVos investment fund and their claims to care about community. Looking at their track record should tell us who they consider community and who they don’t really consider at all.

That’s 1 down and lots to go in the West Michigan Radio Market: On the Death of Rush Limbaugh

February 17, 2021

Rush Limbaugh is Dead, and that is a good thing, because it means that there is one less radio show in West Michigan that does not promote hate, White Supremacy, misogyny, ablism and transphobia from a cop apologist that defended the brutal economic system of Capitalism.

Groups like Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting had monitored Rush Limbaugh’s show content for years, especially after the radio conglomerate Clear Channel syndicated his show so that people all across the country would be subjected to his vile on a daily basis.

In 2012, GRIID began a campaign to get Rush Limbaugh off of WOOD Radio here in Grand Rapids. This campaign included the targeting of advertisers on WOOD Radio, and it included a regular Dump Rush protest outside of the offices of Clear Channel on Monroe Center. It is interesting to note, that while we were doing this campaign, the WOOD Radio station manager would say that their station was just trying to provide a wide range of perspectives. There was no range of perspectives, since it was all far right hate speech!

WOOD Radio has been broadcasting Rush Limbaugh and other far right shock jocks for more than a decade, which means that the hate-filled content has infected this community. West Michigan has a long history of White Supremacy and WOOD Radio has contributed to fostering White Supremacist values, values that have long term consequences to justify poverty, housing discrimination, inadequate health care and educational opportunities to Black, Indigenous and other communities of Color in West Michigan.

I said one down in the headline, because in this radio market there are also numerous other far right proponents of White Supremacy radio programs that air in this market on a daily basis. WOOD Radio alone airs Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, Dave Ramsey and other lesser-known proponents of hate speech and White Supremacy. Like any forms of hate speech and platforms for White Supremacy, they can be fought and shut down.

Rush Limbaugh was one of the court jesters of the US Empire and I will not mourn his death, instead I will celebrate the fact that there is one less amplified voice for hate and White Supremacy.

AmplifyGR project for 1601 Madison SE still has yet to name the business involved in this project, even though they are asking for public funds

February 16, 2021

In early December, MLive reported that AmplifyGR and it’s development partner Rockford Construction would be asking the City of Grand Rapids to provide $2.2 million of public money for a demolition of a vacant building at 1601 Madison SE, which sits on a 10 acre lot.

In that same MLive article, it was reported that a new business would be building at that 1601 Madison SE location, but that the business had not yet been named. The MLive article also quoted the Director of AmplifyGR as saying, “We’re hoping that by the end of the year we can be a little bit more public with that. So hopefully it’s a matter of weeks and not months.

AmplifyGR has also presented information about the proposed project for 1601 Madison SE, to the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and the Fiscal Committee. Today, on Wednesday February the 17th, they will present the same information to the Southtown Corridor Improvement Authority, as can be see on pages 20 – 44 of the Southtown Corridor Improvement Authority agenda packet.

In this most recent presentation by AmplifyGR and Rockford Construction, they still have yet to name the future business that will be located at 1601 Madison SE, despite the fact that the Director of AmplifyGR stated over tow months ago that it might be just a matter of weeks before they go public with that information.

Since the AmplifyGR/Rockford Construction project will be using public money, the public most definitely has a right to know which business will be occupying 1601 Madison SE. The Southtown Corridor Improvement Authority presentation for this Wednesday, still does not include any information as the the name of the business that will occupy 1601 Madison SE.  The only new information included in the Southtown Corridor Improvement Authority agenda packet for February 17, can be seen on page 24. Here, shown above, you can see that the applicant for the project is Kurt Hassberger, representing 1601 Madison LLC and that Rockford Construction will be the General Contractor for the project. 

In looking up 1601 Madison LLC, it was an entity that was registered in 2015. The Agent is listed as Kurt Hassberger and the address for 1601 Madison LLC is listed as 601 FIRST ST, GRAND RAPIDS MI 49504. The thing is, 601 First St NW is the address for Rockford Construction. Now, when we first reported on the DeVos-created AmplifyGR entity, we noted that all of the properties that Rockford Construction had purchased in the Cottage Grove Industrial Area, were properties that were owned by various LLCs owned by Rockford Construction, shown here on the right.

We then noted in a June 26th, 2017 article, that Rockford Construction spent $1,888,500 on the 1601 Madison SE property, which is less than the cost of the $2.2 million they are asking for from the Brownfield Development Authority.

Again, where public funding is involved, people should be demanding complete transparency, as in the case with the AmplifyGR/Rockford Construction project at 1601 Madison SE.

When the Grand Rapids news media doesn’t hold those in power accountable: A WOOD TV 8 fluff piece on the City Manager

February 15, 2021

Last Thursday, under the banner of Black History Month, WOOD TV 8 ran a story about Grand Rapids City Manager and emphasized hat he is the first Black City Manager in Grand Rapids.

Had the story centered on why Washington was the first Black City Manager, then the story would have ultimately led to channel 8 having to come to terms with structural racism in Grand Rapids.

However, the WOOD TV 8 story didn’t take that approach, instead it was content with looking at the person of Mark Washington, rather than the policies he has implemented since becoming the City’s Manager in 2018. 

Now, I’m not saying that the person history of Grand Rapids City officials is irrelevant, but the problem with journalism focusing on personalities instead of policies, often removes them from any responsibility to hold those who have government power accountable.

MLive took a similar approach in 2018, when they provided a summary of the 8 years that Greg Sundstrom had been the City Manager. In that article we wrote about the former City Manager, we referred to the MLive article as a pff piece about the person who has the most political power in Grand Rapids. The same can be said about the story that channel 8 aired last Thursday…….it was a puff piece that did not provide any serious assessment of the policies and practices that the Grand Rapids City government has adopted since Mark Washington became the City Manager.

Journalism’s primary function should always be about the business of holding those in power accountable – those with political and economic power. This is not what the channel 8 story set out to do, even though there were openings for that to happen.

For instance, about half way through the WOOD TV 8, it states:

First, the pandemic struck, exposing racial disparities in its effects. Then in May, George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police. On May 30, outrage over his death spilled over onto the streets of Grand Rapids when a riot broke out.

Then the channel 8 story quotes Washington saying:

We wrestle with the issue of making sure the department is appropriately funded and there’s this contingency that continues to want to see reduced resources in policing, reallocated to other parts of the organization or the community.”

Here, WOOD TV 8 missed the opportunity to either have another source on the issues related to the May 30th rebellion or those calling for Defunding the GRPD. Channel 8 also failed to acknowledge that it was Mark Washington and the Grand Rapids City Attorney, which undermined the community pressure to defund the police department. Several City Commissioners were in the process of proposing some fundings cuts, but Washington and the City Attorney stepped in to make sure that didn’t happen, as we reported in early July of last year. Just a few weeks after that, the City Manager again made an announcement (along with Chief Payne), about the new GRPD Strategic Plan and some bureaucratic side-stepping to completely avoid having to address the community call for defunding the GRPD.

This is the kind of stories that the dominant news media in this market need to pursue, not fluff pieces under the guise of honoring Black History Month. People who are in local government, whose wages are paid by the public should be held accountable to the public, but that will be difficult to do if the dominant news sources in this city do not provide an ongoing assessment and analysis of what Grand Rapids City officials are doing.