Skip to content

Like some demonic, destructive suction tube: Martin Luther King Jr and US militarism Part III

January 20, 2019

In Part I, we looked at Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam speech, to demonstrate that the civil rights leaders was deeply critical of US militarism. We also look at the ways in which US militarism was impacting the world from the time of his speech in 1967, to the present, looking at what each administration was doing in terms of militarism. 

In Part II, explored the organized resistance movements against US militarism, since Dr. King’s 1967 Beyond Vietnam speech. In particular, we looked at how that organized resistance to US militarism manifested itself in Grand Rapids and when it took place, which should illuminate the contradictions of when anti-militarism organizing occurred.  

In Part III, we want to propose a way to envision resisting US militarism in the future that is intersectional and embraces Dr. King’s notion of redirecting resources from militarism to “programs of social uplift.”

US Militarism impacts everything

One thing that has often been missing from organized resistance to US militarism is a recognition that it impacts everything. Think about it. US militarism is a manifestation of White Supremacy, since it primarily is used against people of color and relies disproportionately on communities of color as soldiers. US militarism abroad is primarily waged against people in Latin America, Asia, Middle Eastern countries and African nations. On the domestic front, black and brown communities are targeted by military recruiters through programs like JROTC and because of the fact that we have an economic draft. An economic draft means that higher percentages of communities of color experience poverty and are therefore more susceptible to joining the military because of a lack of job or higher education opportunities.

US militarism impacts the environment. US military bases generate a tremendous amount of waste and impact eco-systems wherever they exist. US militarism relies on massive amounts of fossil fuels, thus contributing to climate change on a global scale. US militarism in the form of weaponry is a massive destructive force, such that, in addition to killing people, it kills animals, plant life, birds, aquatic life and destroys entire eco-systems because of its destructive nature.

US militarism is also a manifestation of patriarchy. As feminist researcher Cynthis Enloe has documented, wherever a US military base exists, women around the world are used by US soldiers as sex objects, many of whom are forced into sex trafficking.

Another way that US militarism impacts everything is the amount of weaponry that wounds people, thus creating large numbers of people with disabilities. In countries like Vietnam, there are still place were US mines are either killing people or causing them to lose limbs or eyesight or hearing.

US militarism also promotes heterosexism, contributes to agribusiness, is often a form of spiritual violence, since it is endorsed and even promoted by Christianity. In other words, US militarism impacts everything.

So, if we recognize that US militarism impacts everything, then we should also recognize that war and militarism are not just a moral issue, but one that should involved organized resistance by any and all social movements.

If you are part of an environmental group, you should ask yourself if that have as part of their mission to oppose US militarism? If your organization is a feminist organization, does it have as part of its mission the end to US militarism? If you are part of a group that works on anti-racism, then it would follow that resisting US militarism should be part of the platform. Again, the point should be clear, that no matter what issues we work on, part of it should be to oppose US militarism.

A great example of groups that are not explicitly anti-US militarism is the environmental justice movement. This movement has 17 principles and number 15 is, “Environmental Justice opposes military occupation, repression and exploitation of lands, peoples and cultures, and other life forms.” 

These principles of Environmental Justice are rooted in an intersectional analysis, which should govern our own collective work and movements.

How do we move forward?

Recognizing that resisting US militarism should become part of our collective work, while important to acknowledge, is not that practical for people who are most affected by systems of power and oppression. Communities of color, immigrants, queer and disabled people have more immediate and urgent matters to deal with just to survive in this harsh world.

Then there is the reality that of those of us who carry more privilege wanting to see marginalized communities “get involved” in anti-militarism work. This is not only a matter of white, male privilege, it fails to acknowledge that asking marginalized people to join anti-militarism movements is NOT what we should be doing. In fact, the question for those of us who carry a great deal of privilege should ask is, how can we be an ally/accomplice in the struggles of oppressed communities?

Now, if those communities want our solidarity, then we need to avoid white saviorism and practice an ethos of accompaniment and radical solidarity. Second, in our work as allies/accomplices, we will realize that those who are most marginalized have always thought about and resisted US militarism, even if we are not aware of it. But here is the thing, if we stand with those most marginalized by systems of oppression, it provides a cushion for those communities, along with emotional and physical space, to then devote more energy to fighting systems of oppression. Dr. King recognized this dynamic and stated in his Beyond Vietnam speech that, “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today—my own government.

In fact, there are numerous examples of communities of color resisting US militarism, even being out front in that resistance. We often recognize US soldiers returning from Vietnam to become part of the anti-war movement, but we generally think of white soldiers. However, there were many black, latinx and native soldiers who returned to be part of the anti-war movement and to start other insurgent movements.

For example, some of the early members of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense were former GIs and realized that the police in the US were just a domestic manifestation of US militarism. Robert Williams, who was in the Korean War, joined the NAACP and then organized his community to take up arms for self defense, a decade before the Panthers came on the scene. In addition, many of the hundreds of members of the Deacons of Defense were also former GIs and completely recognized that fighting white supremacy in the US WAS a form of fighting US militarism.

Many of those involved in the Chicano movement, the Brown Berets and the American Indian Movement, were also former GIs, who also used their experience within US imperialism to organize within their own communities against the various ways that US militarism manifests itself across the country. In fact, their efforts to fight colonialism and settler colonialism in what we refer to as the US, was and is a form of resistance to US militarism.

Those of us who are part of the white community tend to see anti-militarism work as opposing specific wars that occur on foreign soil, when in fact US militarism is everywhere and has been and continues to be resisted by marginalized communities. We just don’t see it. So you see, for those of us who identify as white need to continue to learn from communities of color, to do the work of resisting our own role in white supremacy and to learn from the radical history that we celebrate today with Dr. King’s birthday.

Grand Rapids receives praise once again for being a hotbed for budding capitalists

January 17, 2019

Grand Rapids is a city made up of all kinds of people. Yet, the only people who really seem to matter are those that already have power and wealth.

For example, there was a recent article on Inc. entitled, Why Grand Rapids is one of the Fastest Growing Cities in America and a Hotbed for Entrepreneurs

However, unlike most stories that praise Grand Rapids, this one was written by someone who lives here. Jeff Barrett, CEO of Barrett Digital and the creator of Status Creative, the guy who (with Rob Bliss) created the awful GR Lipdub in 2011, writes about how great Grand Rapids is and gives us three reasons why.

First, Barrett tells us that Grand Rapids tackles big ideas. By big ideas he doesn’t mean how to confront climate change or how to improve public health or how to end poverty. The Big Ideas he is referring to are embodied in two companies – Steelcase and Founders Brewing. Steelcase tackled the big idea of evolving into a business that does consulting and makes office furniture. And the craft company Founders just surpassed Bell in terms of production. Wow, these really aren’t big ideas, they are just examples of businesses making more profits.

Second, Barrett tells us that Grand Rapids isn’t afraid to fail. To prove it, the PR guru refers to what cool stuff the DeVos family is up to (Amway is a client of Barrett’s), how Grand Rapids is becoming a fabulous tourist destination, how the Right Place Inc. is creating more public/private business projects and how the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce looks like a Capital One Cafe. Damn, now these really aren’t big ideas, these are just a way to acknowledge that the Grand Rapids Power Structure is continuing to kickass at the expense of thousands of residents who are struggling to survive. 

Third, Barrett tells us that Generations of philanthropists continue to elevate this city. Of course, by philanthropists, Barrett means DeVos and Secchia, which are the only two philanthropists he cites, along with Spectrum Health, which is essentially another DeVos project.

So two of the three Big Ideas that Grand Rapids is tackling are being led by the DeVos family and everything else is about the power of the market and how they are giving us better furniture makers and craft beer companies.

Jeff Barrett’s article for Inc. is nothing but a self-serving fluff piece that completely ignores most of the 200,000 other people who live here, because they just simply aren’t relevant unless the Jeff Barrett’s of the world tell us about them.

Despite GRPS claims that they are not partnering with Homeland Security, Immigrant Justice groups question the real purpose of the proposed academy

January 16, 2019

Yesterday, MLive posted a story about immigrant justice groups challenging the Grand Rapids Public Schools about a new proposed school career program.

This action was organized by members of Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE, because of information from a January 5th MLive article which stated that GRPS would be offering new education/career programs and one of them would be called the Academy of Public Safety, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity. 

Yesterday, the immigrant justice groups held a press conference outside of City High School on Plainfield, since there was an event planned for that location by GRPS, which was then cancelled due to weather. However, Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE still help a press conference. The groups had intended to hand out information to parents, some of which the January 15 MLive article included. However, it is important to include the full statement, which says:

To the GRPS School Board, Superintendent, and Administration:

In MLive articles dated on August 22, 2018 and January 5, 2019, it was revealed that GRPS is planning an Academy of Public Safety, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity among six employment-based academies at Ottawa Hills High School. Many are hearing about this for the first time.

We in the immigrant community who have trusted GRPS daily with our children are shocked and devastated that the school district is planning this academy.  In working with Movimiento Cosecha GR and the immigrant community at large, you’ve made it appear that you are on our side. In fact, on September 5, 2017, the GRPS Board of Education introduced a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to immediately act to restore the DACA program.  Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal was quoted on WZZM 13 saying, “It isn’t just about removing one person, you will affect an entire community when that happens….These are our neighbors. These are people in our community. And we can’t say that this is okay — we cannot believe this is okay.”

Yet with this action of creating an academy to funnel neighborhood children into jobs that are designed to terrorize, kidnap, and harm our family members, you are showing that you are clearly not on our side and you are not on our children’s side.

Local law enforcement is also complicit with ICE and the Department of Homeland Security, as evidenced by the Kent County Sheriff’s contract with ICE.  

We stand with all communities of color who have been harmed by over-policing of our communities and police violence against children like the Michigan 5 and Honestie Hodges.

As the parents and students of your school district:

  • We want you to immediately dismantle all plans to open this Academy of Public Safety, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity.
  • We also demand that the GRPS Board of Education make a public statement calling for the End of the Contract between Kent County and ICE.

We need to see action on both these demands by the February 4 board meeting.

We would remind you that we expect better from the school system that we support with our taxes and our engagement.  We expect a true community-based education where our children can explore ways to learn and live together that are truly just: ways that are cooperative and that focus on restorative justice. Our children could learn how to organize for movements like our own. What we cannot have is our tax dollars going to support an institution that is complicit with ICE, an agency that terrorizes and separates our families. We will not stand for it and neither will our children.

In response, the Grand Rapids Public Schools Communication Director, John Helmholt stated in the MLive article, the academy has ‘’absolutely nothing to do with ICE nor the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The district has not, does not, and is not planning to have a partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.’’

This statement from Helmholt was gleamed from a larger statement that he sent to parents, a statement worth reading here:

The letter from GRPS states, “The district has not, does not, and is not planning to have partnership with the US Department of Homeland Security.” If this is true, then this should be clarified further by talking with the community about what exactly this Academy of Public Safety, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity will actually offer students.

Also, the statement says that the purpose of this academy was to “develop a diverse talent pipeline for the Grand Rapids Fire Department and the Grand Rapids Police Department. The homeland security portion of the proposed academy is focused on JROTC and cyber-security.

Since when do public schools create programs especially designed to encourage students to become police officers? Being a law enforcement officer in this community also means that they cooperate and therefore are complicity with ICE arresting and detaining immigrants. This means that encouraging students to be cops is like saying that you can have a job that would likely result in you being part of arresting and detaining members of your own immigrant community.

It should also be stated that JROTC is proven to be a program that primarily targets black and latinx students from urban areas, in what the counter-recruitment community identifies as an economic draft. The military representatives that run JROTC make all kinds of promises to participants about economic incentives, but rarely talk about how they might be involved in oppressing communities of color around the world, often in countries where their parents originally came from. 

Therefore, even if the Department of Homeland Security will not be involved in the new academy (which is still in question), it appears that the academy will be directing students to career opportunities that will likely result in their participation in the repression of their own communities.

Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE has invited the community, particularly the affected community, to come to an information session to be held at the Hispanic Center, on Wednesday, January 23rd, beginning at 6pm. 

The racial segregation of housing in Grand Rapids: Past and Present

January 15, 2019

In honor of Richard Rothstein’s visit to Grand Rapids today, I though it might be important to take his analysis from the book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.

In addition, while Rothstein’s book focuses on the government’s role in housing segregation, it is important to think about how the private and non-profit sector’s have contributed to housing segregation in recent decades.

Grand Rapids is pretty typical in many ways, but before looking at GR’s housing segregation, I think it is important to acknowledge that Grand Rapids is founded on land that belonged to the Anishinaabe people. Settler Colonialism is the foundation of Grand Rapids and you can’t have homes without first having land. White Settlers used a variety of tactics, legal, religious coercion and the threat of violence to remove the indigenous population along the Grand River to make way for the creation of Grand Rapids.

It is also important to acknowledge that there was a great deal of class-based housing segregation in Grand Rapids, with the early Robber Barons living in luxury and work class people living in substandard housing.

When the African American population grew in Grand Rapids in the early part of the 20th century, this is when we see more over forms of housing segregation. One early example is cited in the book, African Americans in the Furniture City, where white residents objected to blacks moving in to the 1100 block of Thomas St. SE. The white residents went to the City Commission meeting to voice their opposition.

Todd Robinson, in his important book, A City Within a City: The Black Freedom Struggle in Grand Rapids, Michigan, documents the practice of red lining that primarily impacted the Black community beginning in the 1920s.

Pictured here is a map from the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC) from 1937, that demonstrates where red lining was taking place in Grand Rapids. To understand the color coding, go to this link http://www.historygrandrapids.org/tilemap/2596/the-holc-map.

The practice of Red Lining became the norm. The following information is based on a 1940 Urban League report:

Another report for the Grand Rapids Urban League in 1947, demonstrates that after WWII, the same kind of housing segregation took place. Look at the data from the report, by going to this link, but here is a brief overview of the housing conditions for African Americans. 

Another important point that Rothstein makes in his book is how the late 50s highway construction project across the country, which was initiated by the federal government, also contributed to racial segregation. The same also took place in Grand Rapids, with the construction of US 131 cutting through the north to south and 196 cutting through the city east to west.

I interviewed Fr. Dennis Morrow years ago about the freeway construction in Grand Rapids, since he has done the most extensive research on that topic locally. He said there were roughly 1,000 homes destroyed and 4,000 families displaced. In addition, the highways did contribute to both a form of racial and class segregation, which continues to this day.

Rothstein also makes it clear that white flight contributed to housing segregation. In Grand Rapids, the white flight began in the 50s, with white people moving to places like Rockford, places that Todd Robison refers to as bedroom communities. However, the white flight increased after the 1967 uprising in Grand Rapids. White fear is what motivated the flight, but the other consequence to white flight was that white people also took money out of the city, particularly in areas with the largest concentration of black people.

This disinvestment of the southeast part of Grand Rapids had a long lasting impact on the black community. However, there were still plenty of white landlords who were profiting off of the black community, landlords who often did not maintain those rental properties. The economic decline of the southeast side of the city is well documented, but that changed at the beginning of the 21st Century, when white people decided to move back to the city and buy up property in areas like the Wealthy Street corridor.

This new re-investment by white people is known all too well by black people in this community……it’s called gentrification. Rothstein also identifies this dynamic, stating:

Gentrification of private housing in urban areas, redevelopment projects, and highway routing have forced low-income and minority families to search for new accommodations in a few inner-ring suburbs that are in transition from white to majority minority.

In addition to the gentrification along the Wealthy Street corridor, there has been major gentrification happening in the Bridge St. area, in the Belknap neighborhood and concerns that the Boston Square neighborhood will be next because of the DeVos/Rockford Construction land grab in that area

The government still plays a role in the new gentrification, through the form of subsidies for new development projects or state funding for housing projects that are often run by non-profits. The private housing and development sector and the non-profit sector get these subsidies with virtually no public input and get to redesign the city how they see fit. Now, some may argue that the non-profit housing sector is doing a good thing by building affordable housing, but this can also be misleading. First, the public is not really part of the process, even though public tax dollars pay for these projects. Second, many of the affordable housing projects have been for individuals, so there is still inadequate housing options available for families experiencing poverty. Lastly, the use of non-profit housing projects is somewhat of a false solution, since it doesn’t really address the main problem we see in cities like Grand Rapids, which is the wealth gap.

In 2016, Grand Rapids had the largest wealth gap in the state, according to a report done by the Economic Policy Institute. This trend have having a large wealth gap between the rich and the working poor doesn’t seem to be changing. What we need to do is to come up with new ideas and ways of thinking about addressing the segregated housing reality in Grand Rapids. We need to think about structural oppression and systems of power in order to address the problem of racial segregation in housing. We also need to make sure that those who are the most affected in this community by housing segregation, specifically the black and brown communities need to be the one to lead the effort to dismantle housing segregation in this city.

Longtime DeVos operative and former Michigan Representative, now works for Betsy DeVos in the Department of Education

January 14, 2019

Last Tuesday, the US Department of Education announced that Daniela Garcia will be the Director of Outreach in the Office of Communications and Outreach. 

Garcia was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2014 and served for four years in the 90th District, which includes Holland, Hudsonville and Zeeland. Last year, Garcia campaigned for the 30th District Senate seat in Michigan, but lost to fellow Republican Roger Victory.

Daniela Garcia during her years in the State House was financially backed by the DeVos family, receiving thousands of dollars to represent part of West Michigan. DeVos money was contributed from several members of the family to Garcia, plus Garcia received money through the Great Lakes Education Project, founded by Betsy DeVos.

Garcia was a member of the Education Reform, Health Policy, and Elections and Ethics committees. It was her role on the Education Reform Committee where she pushed for policy that was crafted by the DeVos Family, the Great Lakes Education Project and the West Michigan Policy Forum.

Garcia had received the endorsement of the Great Lakes Education Project in 2014, 2016 and 2018 to represent West Michigan. As a member of the Education Reform Committee she was instrumental in the push to remake the Detroit Public Schools along lines pleasing to the charter school industry and she the primary sponsor of two bills in the Michigan House package in 2016, which postponed the Detroit Public School’s return to local governance and all but obliterated the collective-bargaining rights of Detroit teachers.

Garcia was a huge proponent of Charter Schools in Michigan, voted for an end to pensions for teachers in the public school system (pushed heavily by the West Michigan Policy Forum) and she also voted for the A to F Grades, Rankings, and Designations for Public School bill, which was pass last month during the Lame Duck session. 

The fact that Betsy DeVos chose Daniela Garcia to come work at the Department of Education, makes complete sense. Garcia has not only demonstrated a loyalty to the DeVos family, she has demonstrated a loyalty to one of the DeVos family’s main policy objectives, Education Reform.

Like some demonic, destructive suction tube: Martin Luther King Jr and US militarism Part II

January 13, 2019

In Part I, we looked at Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam speech, to demonstrate that the civil rights leaders was deeply critical of US militarism. We also look at the ways in which US militarism was impacting the world from the time of his speech in 1967, to the present, looking at what each administration was doing in terms of militarism. 

In Part II, we want to look at the organized US resistance movements against US militarism, since Dr. King’s 1967 Beyond Vietnam speech. In particular, we want to look at how that organized resistance to US militarism looked like in Grand Rapids and when it took place, which should illuminate the contradictions of when anti-militarism organizing occurred.

Vietnam Resistance

The anti-Vietnam war movement in Grand Rapids was not as militant as in cities like Chicago, New York or Washington, but there were a significant number of people opposing the war in a variety of ways.

Numerous churches took a stand against the US firebombing of villages in South Vietnam, with Fountain Street Church and Park Congregational leading the way, by bringing in national speakers who were against the war.

There were people were involved in the anti-draft movement in Grand Rapids as well, along with trainings on draft resistance and how to be a conscientious objector.

Many people from the Grand Rapids area also traveled to Washington, DC for the massive anti-war rallies. Many of those who went and organized buses were from colleges and high schools in the area, with Calvin College and Grand Valley State College being the most active.

Grand Valley had a lively student anti-war contingent, holding Teach-Ins, rallies and anti-draft actions. Calvin students organizing against the war were involved in organizing Teach-Ins, rallies and informational resources for students on the draft, as is seen in the picture. In addition, students at Calvin participated in the national Moratorium Campaign against the Vietnam War, with rallies on campus and organizing buses to DC.

For more on the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, go to this link

Anti-Nuclear Freeze Movement

A movement to challenge the proliferation of nuclear weapons was born and involved not only seasoned activists, but included physicians, social workers, scientists and teachers. Groups like Physicians for Social Responsibility help push an anti-nuclear agenda that focused on getting the US to sign on to an arms reduction treaty as the beginning stages of a total nuclear disarmament campaign.

In Grand Rapids, a local chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Institute for Global Education (IGE) and various faith-based groups formed a coalition to educate the community and organize for nuclear disarmament.

In addition, there was a nuclear freeze campaign that sought to get local and state governments to declare themselves nuclear free zones.

However, there was also lots of direct action efforts as well. In August of 1982, several people were arrested at the K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, which was a Strategic Air Command base in the UP. Beginning in 1983, there was a campaign that became to shut down a nuclear weapons factory, Williams International, in Walled Lake, Michigan. Several people from Grand Rapids also were part of that resistance.

Lastly, people from Grand Rapids were involved in direct action efforts at Wurthsmith Air Force Base, in Oscoda, Michigan in the late 1980s through 1991. This ongoing resistance, with hundreds being arrested, resulted in the base being shut down just a few years later.

For more information on the Anti-Nuclear Movement, go to this link

Anti-Apartheid in South Africa Movement

The international anti-apartheid movement had begun in the early 1960s, but people in Grand Rapids began organizing to end apartheid in South Africa in the late 1970s.

However, the movement really took off in the early 80s when organizers got the City of Grand Rapids to divest, the Grand Rapids Public Schools to pass a resolution against South African Apartheid and Calvin College students and faculty got that school to divest as well.

There were also several local people who traveled to be part of larger actions in New York and Washington, DC, with protests and mass civil disobedience.

For more details on the Anti-Apartheid Movement, go to this link

Central American Solidarity Movement

When the Reagan administration made Central America his obsession, the Central American Solidarity Movement began. In Grand Rapids this movement included several churches, the Institute for Global Education and groups like Stop the Invasion Campaign.

People were organized around US funding of the war in El Salvador and Guatemala, along with US funding of the Contra war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. There were teach-ins, rally, tons of educational work and lots of direct action. Congressman Paul Henry was a supporter of the contra war, so there were numerous actions in his office located in the federal building.

In addition, there were several protests after US trained soldiers had killed 6 Catholic priests, their cook and her daughter in El Salvador in 1989 and the US invasion of Panama.

For more information on the Central American Solidarity Movement, go to this link

Anti-Gulf War Movement 1991

When the US military buildup began in 1990, we knew it was only a matter of time before the US invaded Iraq. In Grand Rapids, a weekly demonstration in front of the Federal Building began in the fall of 1990.

However, once the war began in January, actions increased. Marches were organized against the war, a public fast and a Teach-in was organized. However, since the war only last a little over a month, this movement quickly died, even though there were ongoing consequences, which people tried to draw attention to in the summer of 1991, when President George H. W. Bush came to town. https://grpeopleshistory.org/2018/08/29/1991-resistance-to-the-gulf-war-in-grand-rapids-part-ii/

Anti-War in Afghanistan Organizing

After September 11, 2001, the US quickly moved to take action to blame someone for the terrorist attack. In October of 2001, the US began bombing Afghanistan, even though Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11.

Most people were unwilling to speak out against the US invasion of Afghanistan, especially with all the fear-mongering after 9/11. However, there was a small effort against the US invasion of Afghanistan, which included demonstrations at government facilities, a news outlets, education materials and a Teach-In were created, along with fundraising for civil society groups in Afghanistan who opposed the US invasion.

There was also a short-lived effort to resist the escalation of the war in Afghanistan after the Obama administration sent 20,000 more troops

Anti-Iraq War Movement

Organizing against the Iraq war began even before the war started. People in Grand Rapids organized its first mass protest against the war in October of 2002. The next major action was in February of 2003, when President Bush came to Grand Rapids, right after he delivered his State of the Union address. Bush was greeted by an estimated 2,000 people.

Once the war began, there were actions against Congressman Vern Ehlers, at his office, when he spoke publicly and even at his house. There were also Teach-Ins, lots of education materials, counter-recruitment organizing and efforts to organize a long-tem resistance movement.

For more information on the Anti-Iraq War Movement, go to this link

Failure to Embrace Dr. King’s vision against US Militarism

While there has been a fair amount of anti-war organizing in Grand Rapids, since Dr. King gave his 1967 Beyond Vietnam speech, most of that organizing has been against specific wars and not against US militarism in general.

One thing that should be painfully clear is that in Grand Rapids (like the rest of the country), most of the anti-war organizing took place during Republican Administrations. However, as we documented in Part I, US militarism and US Imperialism is an ongoing, Bi-partisan reality.

What is instructive about this point is that, while there were numerous people who were against US wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan, most of those who were publicly opposed to those wars failed to do the following:

  • Most people who were against certain wars were unwilling to take any substantial risk in their opposition to US militarism.
  • Those tended to vote with the Democratic Party ended any opposition to wars, when Democrats occupied the White House or regained control of Congress.
  • There was insufficient intersectional organizing against US militarism, which is exactly what Dr. King was attempting to do in his Beyond Vietnam speech. Dr. King wasn’t just against the war in Vietnam, he was also against how resources for the war took from programs of social uplift.

These three points are important. First, we have to come to terms with the uncomfortable fact that US militarism in Bi-Partisan. Second, we have to acknowledge that most people in the US are unwilling to take the necessary risks to resist US militarism. Lastly, when there are anti-war movements, they often fail to connect their resistance to the anti-racist, anti-capitalist or anti-environmental efforts that are happening at the same time.

In Part III, we will make a proposal about how we can all better work towards Dr. King’s vision of resisting US militarism, especially with an intersectional approach to organizing and resistance.

Company proposing a new immigrant detention facility in Ionia, presented their case before the Ionia City Council earlier this week

January 10, 2019

In October, it was first reported that a proposed immigration detention center might be coming to Ionia. We wrote about this on the same day, in an article entitled, Proposal for new immigration detention facility in Ionia indicates an increase in ICE activity in Michigan

The proposal comes from the Immigration Centers of America (ICA), which was founded in 2008 and provides detention and transportation services for the US Department of Homeland Security. Their Farmville Detention Facility in Virginia, is often cited as a shinning example of the kind of services they offer to Homeland Security. 

On Wednesday, WOOD TV8 ran a follow up story about the proposed immigration detention center in Ionia, after a lawyer representing the company that plans to build the facility, had presented their case before the Ionia City Council on Tuesday. 

The channel 8 story is worth examining. First, there are three different perspectives provided; the lawyer representing ICA, the Mayor of Ionia and the executive director of Migrant Legal Aid, which opposes the need for a new detention facility.

We checked the City of Ionia Commission meeting agenda for January 8, but there is no  mention of the detention center proposal on the agenda and the minutes from that meeting have not as of yet been posted. 

In the WOOD TV 8 story, it states, “ICE made a presentation to the Ionia City Council Tuesday evening. No residents made statements.” We assume that the presentation was given by the lawyer representing ICA, but we won’t know for sure until the minutes from that meeting are posted.

In that same channel 8 story, Dennis Muchmore, the lawyer representing ICA, was quoted as saying, “No one wants to be detained, but these people are not criminals. They are just in the country illegally.” This is an interesting admission and it contradicts how the Department of Homeland Security frames why immigrants are being detained and deported.

At the very end if the story, Muchmore states, “Will a detention center be built? The answer is yes. Will it be built in Ionia? No one knows whether it will be built in Ionia or some other community.” This statement seems to reflect that the proposed detention facility in Ionia is not a done deal and that ICA might have proposals for a detention facility in other states.

Once the Ionia City Council minutes for the January 8th meeting are posted, we will provide an update on this story. In addition, there will be a statewide gathering soon of people who plan to organize and prevent this proposed immigration detention facility from happening.