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2,000 march in Grand Rapids to demand Respect, Dignity and Permanent Protection for All Immigrants

May 2, 2017

(Just as a matter of transparency. Yesterday, I participated in a march for immigrant justice by providing some security for those marching.)

An estimated 2,000 people turned out yesterday to march for dignity, respect and permanent protection against harassment, arrest and deportation.

Those marching were mostly Latinos, Latinix, and indigenous people from Mexico, Central America and numerous Caribbean nations. Some proudly displayed flags from their country of origin, while other carried signs with demands to stop Separating Families because of the decades-long policy of deporting those without documentation.

The march was organized by Movimiento Cosecha Grand Rapids, which is part of a national movement led by those most impacted by the repressive and unjust immigration policies in the US. The organizers had hoped to match the march that was held in 2006, when 10,000 people marched for immigrant rights, but fell way short of that goal.

However, in 2006, there was no clear long-term strategy and the movement died out in just a few months. Those who organized the march that was held yesterday only see this action as the beginning of a campaign to achieve dignity, respect and permanent protection for all immigrants.

The march began at Garfield Park on Burton and moved west to Division Avenue. People cheered from their porches or came out of the businesses that are along Division, while others decided to join the march.

The march organizers did not obtain a permit, since they felt that it was their right to march for what they were demanding. The GRPD was frantic before the march, calling organizers and others connected to the movement, but no one was giving up any information. The GRPD decided to close down roads on their own to clear a path for the march, but the march organizers were clear in that they were providing enough protection for marchers on their own.

At one point the march made a left onto Franklin St. and was head west towards Grandville Ave.You can see from the photo above that the cops had blocked the entire road and were determined to not let anyone continue west on Franklin.  

When the marchers arrived at the cop blockade, the GRPD then not only made it clear that people could not continue west on Franklin, but that people would be arrested if they attempted to do so. From that point on, the cops clearly wanted to dictate the march route and make sure they were in control.

Undeterred, the marchers continued along Ionia making noise and marching slower so as to draw as much attention to the march as possible to those working downtown, shopping or living in one of the many development projects that have popped up throughout the downtown in recent years. At one point the march stopped completely to allow one of the marchers to share her story that reflected the difficulty that most immigrants face when coming to the US.

At one point a band joined the march, which elicited a loud response from the marchers. The band accompanied the march until it reached its destination at the Calder Plaza. Once the march arrived, march organizers made a few brief comments about next steps. People were invited to a meeting this Saturday at 9am to talk more about the Movimiento Cosecha and how to get involved.

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