Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes march in Grand Rapids: We are here and we are not leaving!
Yesterday, over 1,000 people marched in Grand Rapids for immigrant rights and to send a clear message to people in power, Aqui Estamos y no, nos vamos – We are here and we are not leaving!
People gathered near a store owned by Latinos on Division, just a few blocks north of 28th street. There were a few people who spoke, which energized the crowd and then the march began at about 5:20.
There were no permits obtained, people just simply went out into the street and took up the 2 south-bound lanes on Division and the middle turn lane. People march we great enthusiasm, using horns, drums and chanting all throughout the march. One chant said, Grand Rapids, escucha, estamos en la Lucha! – Grand Rapids, Listen Up, We are in the Struggle!
There were also lots of flags being carried or waved, some American flags, but mostly Mexican and Guatemala flags. I asked a few people about why they were carry their home country flags. One person said it was because they wanted to demonstrate the pride they have in their country of origin. Another person said they were angry at the US government for wanting to build a wall along the US and Mexican border and because of the recent ICE raids being conducted in the country, even in West Michigan.
Once the march got to 28th street, those marching turned right and began going west on 28th street towards US 131. Again both west-bound lanes were taken up by marchers and the middle turn lane. Despite blocking traffic, lots of people were honking their horns in support of the march, with people waving and taking pictures with their cell phones.
Just as we crossed US 131, the march made a big u-turn and then went east-bound on 28th street, back towards division, as can be seen in the video below.
The police response to this was surprisingly slow, since the first cop cars did not appear until the march was headed back towards Division on 28th street. The police tried to block the center turn lane and get people to stay in the right two lanes, but lots of people didn’t comply, especially since we were turning left back onto Division to the place where the march began. You can see in the video below people turning onto Division and how long the march was, backed up to 28th street.
The march was the culmination of actions taken throughout the day. People were encouraged not to shop or spend money, not to go to work and to not attend classes or send their children to classes. We have as yet to know what impact the Say Without Immigrants action had economically, but we know for sure that so many students that make up the Grand Rapids Public Schools didn’t show up, forcing the GRPS administration to declare a “snow day.”
Lastly, it should be noted, that unlike the marches held out at the Kent County Airport in recent weeks, the number of allies at this march was significantly smaller.