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Activists that have been trying to remove the Confederate statue in Allendale, are now suing the Township for Free Speech violations

December 7, 2021

It has been roughly 18 months that activists have been organizing to remove the Confederate statue in Allendale. The protest began in the summer of 2020, about the same time that the country erupted over the price murder of George Floyd.

Allendale Township has fought the activists on the removal of the Confederate statue from the very beginning, often arguing that to remove the statue is to remove history. Other players, such as Ryan Kelley, the co-founder of the American Patriot Council, also joined the fight to defend the Confederate statue, while at the same time calling the COVID pandemic a hoax and opposing any kind of government measures to protect the public from the spread of the virus.

In October of 2020, Kelley and his minions organized a rally in the park where the Confederate statue is located in Allendale. A counter-protest was organized, which drew a great deal of media attention, although often failing the report on more critical aspects of the protests.

In March, we reported on the four activists who were charged by Allendale Township of defacing the Confederate statue, although the charges were essentially bogus.

In May of 2021, the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists had called for a boycott of an annual concert series held in Allendale. That concert series was cancelled.

Now, four civil rights advocates have filed a federal lawsuit in the Western District of Michigan against Allendale Township for censoring speech promoting racial justice. The lawsuit asserts that Allendale, located in Ottawa County, Michigan, unlawfully violated their free speech rights by allowing people to pay for messages on engraved bricks in a local park promoting a wide range of individual interests, but rejected bricks with messages supporting racial equality.

According to the Media Release from the four plaintiffs:

In an August 2019 meeting, the Township Board reinstated a decades-old fundraising program that allowed community members to purchase bricks to be engraved with messages of their choice and placed in the township’s Garden of Honor surrounding statues commemorating various wars. The Board did not limit the type of message applicants could have inscribed on a brick. Bricks in the park today have messages such as, “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE,” “ALLENDALE ANIMAL HOSPITAL,” and “ALLENDALE CLASS OF 2003.”

One of the statues in the Garden of Honor is of a Confederate soldier and a Union soldier with a small, enslaved Black child between their legs. Following the murder of George Floyd and the nationwide racial justice protests in the summer of 2020, many Americans began calling for the removal of Confederate statues. Numerous community members, including plaintiffs, and organizations, such as Grand Valley State University, have urged Allendale to remove the Confederate soldier—thought to be one of the only Confederate statues north of the Mason-Dixon line—from the Garden of Honor. Thus far, the Allendale Township Board has refused to remove or replace the statue of the Confederate soldier.    

Plaintiff Tony Miller is a Black veteran of the United States Navy. In March, Miller submitted brick applications to honor the service of Black and Indigenous Americans in the U.S. armed forces and to promote racial justice. Miller’s submissions included either the phrase “Black Lives Matter” or “Indigenous Lives Matter” followed by the name of a veteran. Because the brick display faces the Confederate statue, Miller hoped his bricks would make a particularly powerful statement.

In response to the brick applications of Mr. Miller and a few other civil rights advocates, the Allendale Board decided to change the rules for inscribed bricks and to allow only messages that stated a veteran’s name, branch of service, dates of service, war or conflict, location of service, rank, unit, medals and awards, and/or POW or MIA status. Even though Mr. Miller and the other plaintiffs submitted brick applications before the Board adopted the new policy, the Township Clerk rejected all of their applications because they did not meet the brick program’s new content requirements. 

Mr. Miller stated, “I just want to make Allendale a more welcoming home for families like mine. It’s not fair for the Board to change the rules just to prevent us from promoting racial justice.”

The lawsuit asks the federal court to order Allendale to install the bricks with racial justice messages that were applied for before the rule change.

To view the legal complaint, click here. 

Minimum Wage increase is an insult to workers in Michigan: Time we realize that workers have more power than politicians

December 6, 2021

On Friday, MLive posted a story about the minimum wage in Michigan, stating that after the New Year, the minimum wage will go from $9.65 to $9.87.

$9.87 is an outrageously low wage, it is so low that it is insulting to workers, no matter what kind of work you do. The soon to be $9.87 an hour minimum wage in Michigan does not even cover the most basic necessities. In fact, a $9.87 wage would not even cover the cost of rent for people in Michigan. 

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, people in Michigan need to earn at least $15.62 to cover the cost of rent. For people living in Grand Rapids, even earning $15.62 would not be enough considering what the cost of rent at many places in the city. 

Of course, $15.62 an hour is what a single person would need for a one bedroom apartment. If you are a single parent, and need a two bedroom apartment, then you would need to earn $18.55 an hour, just to be able to afford rent. This doesn’t necessarily cover the cost of utilities, food, health care, transportation and you can pretty much forget about having money left over to do something entertaining. If you add student loans to the equation or child care costs, you are likely to go into debt or to have two jobs just to make ends meet.

Clearly, the politicians who pass minimum wage laws have rarely ever worked for at minimum wage, especially once they were out of high school. And when I say politicians, I’m not just talking about Republicans, but Democrats as well. Think about it. Earlier this year the Biden administration had originally proposed an increase to the federal minimum wage, up to $15 an hour. Even with the Democrats controlling the White House, the Senate and the House, they could not get a $15 federal minimum. wage increase passed, especially with several Democrats voting against the proposed increase.

A more effective way to raise wages, to get employers to pay a livable wage, is to organize in your own workplace and to support workers who are organizing to demand just wages. In fact, as we have seen in recent months, more and more workers are realizing that they have a great deal of leverage and power, even if it is just withholding their labor until employers begin to respect them with paying a more just wage. We have seen this with Kelloggs recently and lots of other places that are already unionized. However, even in places that are not unionized, especially in the service industry, many places are beginning to pay $15, $18 or even $20 an hour because there are lots of workers who will no longer submit to working for less than what they can reasonably live off of. 

The history of the labor movement, especially in the earlier part of the labor movement, has demonstrated that by organizing themselves and making demands of employers, they were able to win better wages, benefits, safer working conditions, etc. In fact, all existing labor laws were the direct result of workers organizing, engaging in strikes and other tactics to win their demands. Politicians have never initiated living wage demands, workplace safety demands, worker benefits, etc., those things have come about because of the organized efforts of workers themselves. In fact, according to Cloward and Piven’s book, Poor People’s Movements, most major labor victories happened because of spontaneous worker actions, especially the sit-down strike. 

According to Jeremy Brecher’s book Strike!, there were 48 sit-down strikes in 1936 and 477 sit-down strikes in 1937. All of this happened before most of the New Deal policies were put into effect. In fact, most labor historians acknowledge that the tremendous amount of labor unrest was what pushed the Roosevelt Administration to adopt the New Deal Policies in the first place.

All of this is to say that workers have more power than bosses and if we are organized we can not only win a livable wage, but we can create a world that is not dictated by Billionaires, corporations or the Capitalist Class. 

With a nearly unanimous vote, the Michigan House passes bill to provide $300 Million for policing

December 5, 2021

Three weeks ago, we reported on proposed legislation that would provide $300 million in funding for police departments to hire more cops and fund addition police programs.

In our previous GRIID posting we wrote:

Michigan’s House Speaker, Jason Wentworth was quoted in the MLive article as saying:

“Michigan’s men and women in uniform deserve to know that they are a priority and that their work is important to us. In an era when far too many people are attacking law enforcement and looking for ways to defund the police, we chose to stand with them and find solutions together.”

HB 5522 passed overwhelmingly, with a vote of 97 – 3, with seven legislators abstaining. The 3 no votes were all from Republicans, which means that every Democrat (not including those who abstained) in the Michigan House voted for the $300 million in police funding.

The near unanimous vote for more police funding is consisted across the country and has been for decades, with both parties choosing to provide massive amounts of funds to police departments, while social programs are constantly being cut. You can see which politicians in Michigan have been receiving financial support from police unions, by going to the site No More Cop Money.

Even MLive responded to the false perception that Democratic lawmakers were in favor of defunding police departments. In an article posted on December 2nd, the MLive reporter writes:

Despite repeated claims from Republican lawmakers in Michigan that state Democrats supported defunding police departments, most large Michigan cities are spending more on police services in wake of last year’s racial justice movement.

In other words, Democratic lawmakers are just as committed to funding police as are GOP lawmakers. Again, this is consistent with police union funding of candidates, both Republican and Democratic candidates. If one looks at the largest police union in the country, the Fraternal Order of Police, you can see that between 1990 and 2020, Democrats had received more funding from the FOP than did Republicans in both the House and the Senate.

Back to the near unanimous vote in the Michigan House to provide $300 million in additional funding to the police, one could argue that this might be in part because Democrats who will be up for re-election in 2022, will not want to be perceived as anti-police or soft on crime. It will be interesting to see which candidates in Michigan will be receiving funding from police unions during the upcoming election cycle. 

GRIID 2022 Winter Class: The Function of Policing in the US and how we can work towards a world Without Police

December 2, 2021

In this 8-week class, we will explore the history of policing in the United States, its role in maintaining structural racism and how it has been used to suppress social movements.

We will also look at more contemporary dynamics with policing, investigating the notion of community policing, the practice of counter-insurgency by police departments, and the bi-partisan support for increased funding for policing.

Lastly, we will look at the movement to defund the police, using numerous writings from activists coming out of the abolitionist tradition, a discussion about the Movement for Black Lives Defund the Police toolkit and several other recent reports that challenge the dominant narrative that society needs police and that they keep us safe.

This will be a great opportunity to develop critical thinking skills and respond to all those liberal memes that say, “Defund the police doesn’t mean get rid of the police, it means………”

This class will take place on Monday evenings, from 6:30 – 8:30pm, beginning on Monday, January 17. The class will be held for 8 consecutive weeks, ending on Monday, March 8.

GRIID is asking for a $25 suggested donation for the class and will be re-directly the funds raised to groups working on defunding the GRPD. However, you will not be turned away if you can’t contribute financially.

We will not be using a singular book for this class, rather chapters from numerous texts, which GRIID will provide in digital form. The sources we will be using come from the following books:

  • Violent Order: Essays on the Nature of Police, edited by David Correia & Tyler Wall
  • Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America, by Kristian Williams
  • Abolition For the People: The Movement for a Future Without Policing & Prisons, edited by Colin Kaepernick
  • A World Without Police: How Strong Communities Make Cops Obsolete, by Geo Maher
  • Life During Wartime: Resisting Counter-insurgency, edited by Kristian Williams, Will Munger and Lara Messersmith-Glavin
  • Movement for Black Lives Defund the Police Toolkit 

If you are interested in signing up, please send an e-mail to jsmith@griid.org. There will be a 15 person limit for the class, which will be conducted virtually. 

In 1984, I spent 48 days in jail for refusing to sign a statement saying I would never do Civil Disobedience at a Nuclear Weapons factory in Michigan

December 1, 2021

On December 2, 1984, there were 13 of us who were arrested at Williams International, a Michigan-based company that manufactures guidance systems for nuclear weapons. 

It has been 38 years since I was arrested at Williams International, but in many ways it feels like yesterday. It was an unseasonably warm December day in Michigan, and just before the 1st Shift came into work, we blockaded the entrance to the factory, a factory where death was being manufactured.

After about 40 minutes, we were all arrested and taken to the local jail to be processed in, but ended up going in front of a District Court Judge and charged with trespass. When the judge got to me, he looked at my name and asked if I had been before him for the same charge. I said no, that would have been my brother. The judge joked that this seems to be a family affair and asked if anyone else from my family was involved. I said that my mother was in the courtroom that day, and pointed to where she was seated.

The judge then asked me if I had a problem with breaking the law. I responded by saying that December 2nd was the day that Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, thus breaking an unjust segregation law. I also stated that it was legal to manufacture, deploy and detonate nuclear weapons, which are weapons of mass death. Therefore, like Rosa Parks we were defiantly breaking a law that we believed to be unjust.

We were all sentenced to pay a $50 fine, which none of us ever ended up paying.

However, the 13 of us arrested at Williams International were also being charged in Circuit Court, since Williams International had created a court supported injunction, which barred anyone from doing civil disobedience at the company’s factory. So, we were back in court on December 3rd, but this time the judge gave us an indefinite sentence, meaning we would stay in jail until we signed statements saying that we would never go back to Williams International again. All 13 of us refused, so we were taken into custody and placed in the Wayne County Jail.

This was the first time I had gone to jail, so those in charge of the Wayne County Jail decided to separate those of us arrested. I was placed in a six-man cell with 5 African American guys. I had already planned to not eat once I got arrested, so when the meal time came around I told those in my cell that they could have my food. Offering them my food helped to break the ice between us. They asked why I was arrested. I told them for civil disobedience at a factory that manufacturers nuclear weapons and they said, “you are a crazy fucking white boy.” 

From that moment on, all 5 of the other men in my cell were joking with me and sharing the reasons why they were there. None of them had any legal support, so I asked our legal support team to look into their cases and get people to visit them and write letters to the judge. Within 5 days, I was moved to the Shiawassee County Jail, near Flint, because the Wayne County Jail administrators did not want people to any kind of organizing or solidarity work inside that jail. I really wasn’t the catalyst for this, since the other men in my cell were simply asking for solidarity and support. In fact, they were the catalyst, and they were acting in a long tradition within the Black Freedom Movement, using jails/prisons as a means of doing organizing work, a reality so well documented in Dan Berger’s book, Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era.

While at the Shiawassee County Jail, they put all of us into a six-man cell, utilizing cots and wanting to prevent us from “organizing other inmates.” Because the jail was so close to Flint, we were paid a visit by the editor of the Flint Voice, Michael Moore. This was before Moore had produced Roger & Me and wasn’t well known outside of the state. 

We also grabbed the attention of the group Amnesty International (AI). AI was interested in our case, since we were not in jail for something we had done, but because we refused to say that we wouldn’t come back to Williams International again and engage in direct action. In legal terms, the judge was binding our conscience, since we refused to sign a statement. Amnesty International saw us as prisoners of conscience and decided to organize a campaign calling for our immediate release, since we were now officially political prisoners.

The attention our case received had now expanded and Williams International did not want all of this attention, which included increased news coverage. In addition, several of us had not eaten since we went into jail, so that was also getting lots of press. At the same time, the Shiawassee County Jail administrators were freaking out, since they did not want anyone dying from a hunger strike in their jail.

The combination of our collective refusal to eat and the Amnesty International campaign eventually resulted in our release from jail, some 48 days after we had been arrested.

I learned a great deal about how the jail system worked, how the court system worked, and how corporations wielded tremendous power as a result of my decision to engage in civil disobedience to resist nuclear war. All Power to the People!

Art by Shelby Lijewski

World AIDS Day: Remembering what Reagan AIDS Commission member Richard DeVos had to say about AIDS and the Gay Community

November 30, 2021

By 1987, 40,000 had died from AIDS in the US and despite the growing epidemic the federal government did not take any formal action until later that year. Reagan did appoint the Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic in the summer of 1987; it was later renamed the Watkins Commission, after its chair.

With the appointment of this commission, Reagan was able to appease those who demanded a more sustained federal response to AIDS. He also answered the concerns of the New Right by appointing an AIDS commission that included few scientists who had participated in AIDS research and few physicians who had actually treated people with AIDS. In addition, the commission included outspoken opponents of AIDS education, such as New York Cardinal John O’Connor. O’Connor was not only opposed to AIDS education, he was openly hostile to the Gay community.

Religious Right leader Gary Bauer, who was in the Reagan administration in 1987, said of those appoint by the President:

…..the panel was designed to be ”a cross-section of thoughtful Americans” rather than another medical or scientific group that would duplicate dozens of previous efforts. ”We intentionally tried to get people from a wide variety of walks of life, and took the risk that there would be disagreements and fireworks,” Mr. Bauer said. He also called it ”a good group” to deal with such issues as insurance coverage and care for AIDS patients and said he doubted that quarantines, school policy or casual transmission would become a major focus.

The Religious Right was particularly incensed by the AIDS crisis and saw it as purely a result of immoral behavior, especially in the Gay community. Religious Right leaders at the time, such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, equated the deaths with the Gay community as retribution from God for their “sinful” lives. Falwell not only despised the Gay community, he despised the larger society which “tolerated” Gays. Falwell’s famous statement was:

“AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals, It is God’s punishment for a society that tolerates homosexuals.”

Rich DeVos and the AIDS Commission

One of the people appointed to the 13-member AIDS Commission was Amway co-founder Richard DeVos. DeVos was chosen in part because he was one of the largest financial supporters of the Republican Party, but also because of his role in the Religious Right.

In an interview with MLive a few years ago, DeVos made some pretty revealing comments about his attitudes towards the Gay community while sitting on the AIDS Commission.

When HIV first came out, President Reagan formed a commission and I was honored to be on that commission. I listened to 300 witnesses tell us that it was every body else’s fault but their own. Nothing to do with their conduct, just that the government didn’t fix this disease. At the end of that I put in the document, it was the conclusion document from the commission, that actions have consequences and you are responsible for yours. AIDS is a disease people gain because of their actions. It wasn’t like cancer. We all made the exceptions for how you got it, by accident, that was all solved a long time ago. That’s when they started hanging me in effigy because I wasn’t sympathetic to all their requests for special treatment. Because at that time it was always someone else’s fault. I said, you are responsible for your actions too, you know. Conduct yourself properly, which is a pretty solid Christian principle. 

Not only does DeVos show his homophobic bias, his comments demonstrate his ignorance of the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. It was within this climate of homophobia and inaction on the part of the federal government that AIDS activism would take a new direction in 1987, with the creation of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). We encourage you to watch this powerful documentary film that chronicles the work of ACT UP, United in Anger.

West Michigan Foundation Watch: The Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation – financing the far right

November 29, 2021

West Michigan Foundations generally submit their 990 documents two years behind the current year. We just got done posting information on several West Michigan Foundations for their 2019 990 documents. However, one foundation, the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation, has already submitted their 990 documents for 2020.

The 990 documents are legally required to provide some transparency for foundation contributions, but it also provides us with a window into how the area’s largest foundations are spending their money to support far right causes that serve both an ideological and political function.

For those who don’t already know, Edgar and Elsa Prince are the parents of private mercenary profiteer Erik Prince and former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Edgar Prince made his wealth in manufacturing and he and Elsa had been funding the far right for decades. We follow these families and their foundations because we believe it is important for people in West Michigan to know how much the far right is financially supported in West Michigan. 

The Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation 2019 990 documents can be found at GuideStar.org. According to Guide Star, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation has a little over $11 million in assets. This Foundation is governed by Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, Erik Prince, Emilie Wierda, Eileen Ellens, Alan Hoekstra and Renselaer Broekhuizen. 

What follows are some of the more prominent organizations that the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation contributed to in 2020. Their foundation contributed just under $3 million for 2020, to mostly conservative Christian entities. We include the name of the entity receiving foundation money, the amount and a brief description of each organization.

Haggai Institute – $600,000 – The Haggai Institute is a Christian evangelical entity that provides leadership training for people around the world to convert people. The Haggai Institute believes that only Jesus can bring joy to the world, not governments, education or any other spiritual tradition.

Family Research Council – $50,000 – The Family Research Council is a DC-based entity that was created in 1980 and has played an influential role with numerous administrations, beginning with the Reagan Administration. The Family Research Council advocates a theocracy, which means that religion should be the true ruling power.

Prison Fellowship Ministries – $100,000 – The Prison Fellowship Ministries was founded by former Nixon Administration staff Charles Colson, who was sentenced to jail for his role in the Watergate scandal. The Prison Fellowship Ministries practices far right Christianity and is part of the State Policy Network, which connects far right groups across the country to promote policy changes at the state level, changes which further the far right agenda.

Christian Leadership Institute – $25,000 – The CLI was co-founded by Richard DeVos Sr., to provide training to Christian leaders to spread a message of conservative Christianity in West Michigan, across the US and around the world.

Acton Institute – $30,000 – The Acton Institute is a far right think tank based in Grand Rapids that was founded in 1990 to promote the relationship between Christianity and Capitalism. Elsa Prince and Betsy DeVos have been former Board members with the Acton Institute.

Freedom Alliance – $30,000 – Freedom Alliance is an entity that was founded by convicted Iran Contra scandal participant Col. Oliver North. The Freedom Alliance promotes US militarism and encourages people to join the US military.

Media Research Center – $25,000 – The Media Research Center is a far right media watchdog, which seeks to counter the so-called leftist press in the United States.

Council for National Policy – $15,000 – The Council for National Policy (CNP) was founded in 1981, with board membership and funding from the Coors, Koch and DeVos families. The CNP is the subject of Anne Nelson’s book, Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right, and has played a critical role in the anti-lockdown protests across the US since the COVID 19 pandemic began.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy – $10,000 – The Mackinac Center is a far right think tank based in Midland, Michigan, which has a long history of promoting far right stat policy. The Mackinac Center was instrumental in getting the Right to Work policy adopted in Michigan during the Synder administration and they have been active in the past year opposing COVID 19 policies in the state.

Alliance Defending Freedom – $100,000 – The Alliance for Defending Freedom is a Conservative Christian group of lawyers that defends religious groups around anti-LGBT policies and other religious right issues.

American Values – $30,000 – American Values is another conservative religious entity, which perpetuates the so-called values of the United States, but are rooted in far right principles. In a recent post they made the following comment:

In the aftermath of the Rittenhouse verdict, Marxists and revolutionaries took to the streets, using his exoneration as a match to try to set America ablaze. Make no mistake about it: They are Marxist and they are revolutionary. These radicals want a race war in America. 

Gateways to Better Education – $100,000 – Gateways to Better Education was created to provide resources and strategies to Christians – teachers and students – who are in the public schools and want to insert their Christian beliefs into public school life. Their partner organizations is a who’s who of far right groups.

Center for Military Readiness – $15,000 – The CMR claims to be a group that supports US troops, but their website is filled with US military and foreign policy analysis and is run by mostly former high ranking US military officials. 

Live Action – $25,000 – Live Action is an anti-abortion organization that claims to have the largest online pro-life presence. They use lots of the same scare tactics and misinformation to counter the pro-Choice movement. 

Protect Life Michigan – $35,000 – PLM is an organization that attempts to develop anti-abortion leaders across the state at the high school and college level. 

Moms for America – $5,000 – Moms for America is a women-centered far right group that mixes nationalism and Christianity. Moms for America has most recently been a central component in the anti-vaccination movement, particularly with K-12 schools.

West Michigan Far Right Watch: The Acton Institute still hates the Movement for Black Lives and Ryan Kelley loves Kyle Rittenhouse

November 28, 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 two examples this week. The first example comes to us from the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. Ever since the nation erupted in protest to the police murder of George Floyd, the Acton Institute has demonstrated over and over again their racist ideological tendencies and their contempt for the Movement for Black Lives. 

In June of 2020, the Acton Institute essentially declared war on the Movement for Black Lives.

In April of 2021, the Acton Institute noted that Derek Chauvin was guilty, but the real problem was the riots in Minneapolis, along with Black Clergy and Black politicians.

On November 17th, on their radio show Acton Line, the Acton Institute once again demonstrated their hatred for the Movement for Black Lives. The guest for the Acton Line radio show was Kevin Schmiesing, director of research at the Freedom & Virtue Institute and coauthor and editor of the newly released Race and Justice in America. Schmiesing said that part of the problem in the US was that there was “too much of an emphasis on race.”

The Acton guest went on to say that the US is inherently not a racist country and that the system we have is fundamentally sound. The analysis in the new book he edited was that Black people want to blame the system instead of just wanting to work towards reforms or improvements on the system we have. Schmiesing referred to people as either personalists – those who want to take personal responsibility for their actions, and separationists – those who want to blame the system. The Acton Line guest then claimed that Dr. King was a personalist. This tells us a great deal, since there is no way that one can look at the whole life of Dr. King and NOT see that he was challenging systems of power. 

Towards the end of the interview, when asked about what resources people should look to for solution to racism, Kevin Schmiesing suggested the far right Hillsdale College project, the 1776 Project, the Freedom & Virtue Institute, the US Constitution and Christianity.

The second example comes to us from the Facebook page of Ryan Kelley, founder of the American Patriot Council and Republican candidate for Governor in Michigan.

Between November 19 and November 24, Ryan Kelley posted 4 different images/memes demonstrating that he supports and loves Kyle Rittenhouse. Here are those images.

Ryan Kelley claims to be a devout Catholic, while the Acton Institute was founded by a Catholic Priest. This is not the only thing they have in common. While the White Supremacy of Ryan Kelley is more visible, the White Supremacy of the Acton Institute is just as dangerous. In fact, one could argue that the ideological defense of White Supremacy that comes from the Acton Institute, lays the foundation for people like Ryan Kelley to be so brazenly racist in their words and their actions. We would all be wise to see how the Acton Institute and Ryan Kelley benefit from each other.

As the Holiday Season approaches, new report highlights how the US food system has become more monopolized during the first 18 months of the COVID pandemic

November 23, 2021

A new issue brief from Food & Water Watch highlights an important aspect of the US food system, particularly since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic. The opening comments from the issue brief, The Economic Costs of Food monopolies: The Grocery Cartels, states:

While the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a blow to many parts of the economy, one sector saw record-breaking profits: the grocery industry. Many major supermarket chains reaped double-digit growth and surging stock values in 2020, as people locked down and ate more meals at home.

Americans, however, faced rising food costs and widespread shortages of some staples. And while the cost of meat shot up, prices paid to farmers actually declined, spurring a federal investigation. Most atrociously, frontline workers who stocked grocery shelves or worked in meat processing plants sickened and died from COVID-19. Yet many corporations limited hazard pay and instead invested in stock buybacks.The COVID-19 pandemic pulled back the curtain on the idea that the current food system offers abundance, efficiency and resilience. 

The grocery cartels that the Food & Water Watch identify are Walmart, Kroger, Costco and Albertson’s Companies, which control roughly 70% of all grocery sales in the US. 

There is a second tier of the grocery cartel, which includes Meijer Inc. As we have noted in previous postings, the wealth of Doug & Hank Meijer grew from $10.2 Billion since the pandemic began in March of 2020, to $16.9 Billion through October 2021. The owners of Meijer Inc. saw their wealth grow by $6.7 Billion during the first 18 months of the pandemic. Meijer Inc. was able to achieve these massive profits for the same reason as the four national grocery cartels – paying farmers less while raising prices and paying workers poverty-level wages during a time that more people were staying home to eat meals.

The report from Food & Water Watch does offer up some recommendations on how to combat the grocery cartels in the US, suggesting:

  • Stop agribusiness and food chain mergers
  • Enforce existing anti-trust legislation
  • Create and expand more Grocery Cooperatives
  • Create & support local food processors

One strategy that is missing from the recommendations is to support and promote more organizing amongst those who work in the field, in food processing, retail grocery stores and restaurant workers. We have seen in recent months the number of strikes and boycotts that are taking place, action which directly benefit food workers. In addition, this week is International Food Workers Week. The Food Chain Workers Alliance is behind this effort. “What started as an awareness campaign in 2012 by organized food and farmworkers leveraging end-of-year holidays around the need to raise the minimum wage and improve working conditions from farm to table, the campaign has become more relevant than ever in 2021.”

If we are serious about changing the current food system, then we not only need to create alternatives to the Agribusiness system, but by practicing food justice and food sovereignty. However, we must support food workers, at all levels, particularly now as they fight to win increased wages, the right to unionize and to improve working conditions. Ultimately, we have to support those who literally put food on our table.

The 2022 Kent County Budget: Funding the Prison Industrial Complex means funding harm against Black and Brown communities

November 23, 2021

Last week, it was reported that the Kent County Commission passed the 2022 budget, at $526.9 million.

The MLive article cites one County Commissioner and provides some of the numbers for what the 2022 budget dollars are allocated for. Unfortunately, there is no link to the County’s 2022 budget, a link we provide here.

The County did hold one public hearing on the 2022 Budget, on November 4, but there was little promotion of that hearing by both the County government and by the local news media. After a presentation about the 2022 Budget at the November 4th meeting, not one person got up to speak about the proposed budget.

Like the Grand Rapids City Budget, the public has virtually no real input on how their tax dollars are being spent. Earlier this year, groups just Defund the GRPD pushed for more time to participate in crafting the annual budget, more user friendly budget proposals and for the city to adopt a participatory budgeting process, where the public could actively make decisions on how their tax dollars are being spent.

And like the Grand Rapids City Budget with the GRPD, the Kent County Budget also allocates a great deal of money for the Sheriff’s Department. In addition, the Kent County Budget provides significant funding for the Courts and the Kent County Jail. All of these budgeting priorities, the Courts, the Jail and the Sheriff’s Department, can be categorized as part of the Prison Industrial Complex – with law enforcement making arrests, with courts sentencing people and the jail detaining people.

In looking at the 2022 Kent County Budget, there is $52.3 million allocated for the Courts and $99.8 million for the Sheriff’s Department, which includes the administration of the Kent County Jail. All total, the Prison Industrial Complex in Kent County, is costing the public $152.1 million. This means that about a third of the County’s budget is allocated for the arrest, sentencing and incarceration of people, what the County euphemistically refers to as “Public Safety.”

And just as groups like Defund the GRPD and Justice For Black Lives have been calling for the re-allocation of police money for things like housing, education, etc., imagine what the $152.1 million could fund for improve the lives of people in Kent County, rather than funding a system that primarily punished Black and Brown people. Maybe it is time that we scrutinize the county funding that disproportionately harms BIPOC people and protects systems of power in this community. The 19 member Kent County Commission seems to agree with this, since the budget was unanimously approved.