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We Don’t Need a Permit to Resist: 2nd Week of Protests at the Kent County Airport in Solidarity with Muslims, Immigrants and Refugees

February 6, 2017

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For the second week in a row, a good-sized crowd turned out to say no the President’s Executive Order that would restrict and ban certain refugees, immigrants and Muslims from coming into the US.

An estimated 300 people showed up at the Kent County Airport yesterday to resist the Federal government’s policy. This was about half as many people who came out last Sunday

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-12-09-38-amThe amount of people wasn’t the only difference at yesterday’s protest. The police presence was significantly larger that what was there last week, especially early on. There were nearly 20 police vehicles patrolling throughout the 2 hours the protest lasted, with law enforcement from the airport security, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, the Grand Rapids Police Department and the Michigan State Police.

The same designated protest area was created, like last week, but most people refused to go to that space, instead, people initially gathered near the entrance to the airport. After about 30 minutes, the crowd began marching pasted the designated protest area and marched down one road that eventually led to the terminal. The police kept scrambling to keep up, since they were unaware of where the protest was going.screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-12-12-15-am

Once people arrived at the airport terminal, it became evident that the airport security and other law enforcement agencies were going to manage those marching, especially if they decided to block all four lanes in front of the terminal, like what had been done the week before. The airport had wooden barricades lined up along the sidewalk, just in case they needed to contain people. The police were also preventing people from blocking all roads in front of the terminal and from entering the terminal itself.

Permits and the Policing of Dissent

Part of the reason why there was such a large police presence at the airport before and during the protest, had to do with the fact that people with the local Democratic Party had once again contacted the airport asking for permission to protest. Those with Michigan’s Third Democratic Congressional District had created their own protest, which they then cancelled, but not before attempting to pressure the autonomous protest organizers to comply with the wishes of the airport authority.

In a message sent to those who organized the autonomous protest, here is what Traci Kornak wrote:

  • See the attached permit.screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-1-39-37-am
  • See the rules and liability for damage or breaking the rules.
  • Someone from the group will need to sign.
  • We have obtained a permit but will not go forward until the groups that are online who want to interfere and disrupt the airport operations are in agreement. Last weekend there was no damage but the disruption at the terminal delayed flights.
  • This is private property and there is no right to assemble anywhere but the easement at the front of the property on Patterson.
  • We do not want to distract attention from the cause.

There were other messages sent attempting to pressure people to comply with the permit agreement. In one message, the people associated with the local Democrats said, This permit needs to be signed if the protest is going to go forward.

If people want to get permission to protest, they certainly can do that, but those who chose to should never tell other people that they need permission to resist or dissent.

Muslim, Refugee and Immigrant Voices16473948_10154080362111205_829990733251163319_n

One positive thing that this writer witnessed was that there was a larger contingent of those from the refugee, immigrant and Muslim communities present during yesterday’s march. People from Latin America, African and the Middle East were visible and vocal during the protest that began in front of the airport entrance, all the way to the terminal.

This writer spoke with several people who identified as Muslim and who were from countries like Somalia that came out to voice their opposition to the Executive Order that would ban or limit people coming from certain countries. One young woman said to me, “It is important to be here to voice our opposition to this injustice, to this policy. We all need to take a stand. We are grateful that other people are willing to be here and to stand in support of our rights.”

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