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Those attending the MSU ribbon-cutting ceremony were greeted by anti-Betsy DeVos protestors in Grand Rapids

September 20, 2017

Earlier today, MSU students organized a demonstration at the new MSU medical building on the corner of Monroe and Michigan in downtown Grand Rapids.

The reason for the protest, was due to the fact that MSU administrators had invited Betsy DeVos to speak at the grand opening of the new university facility.

An estimated 60 people showed up to protest DeVos, a protest that was organized by MSU students and faculty.

The MSU student-led protest included a petition to stop DeVos from speaking, which included these bullet points:

As Education Secretary, Secretary DeVos:

  • Recommends a $9 billion cut in federal education funding, including cuts to higher education, training and after-school programs.
  • Supports cutting financial aid to low-income college students making it easier for private loan servicer’s to prey on Michigan families. The MSU College of Human Medicine already has some of the highest per student debt in the nation.
  • Rolled back regulations on for-profit colleges and has made it easier for low performing for-profit colleges to defraud students.
  • Refuses to limit federal education funding for schools who actively discriminate against LGBTQ students.

As expected there were police everywhere, in cars, on bike and on foot, to make sure that the MSU ribbon cutting affair would go smoothly. The police put up tape and barricades to deter people opposed to Betsy DeVos from entering the north side of the property (see below), where the university had set up a large tent where DeVos spoke and attendees could schmooze and have refreshments.

Those who were protesting Betsy DeVos, brought signs and engaged in various chants with bullhorns. The signs covered a variety of messages that spoke to who Betsy DeVos is and what some of her positions as Secretary of Education have been so far.

One of the most consistent messages had to do with what the Secretary of Education is proposing to change about Title IX. I did a short interview with one of the protestors who talked about the Title IX issue and why it is so problematic.

In the early part of the demonstration there were numerous people who clearly were headed to the event with Betsy DeVos. They had to walk through the gauntlet of protestors as they made their way to the north side of the building, where the outdoor tent was. Some notable people who went to hear Betsy DeVos, were President of the Right Place Inc., Birgit Klohs and Grand Rapids City Commission Dave Shaffer. Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss also showed up and since there were members of the Grand Rapids Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), they let Bliss know that she was not welcome. In addition, the CEO of The Rapid, Peter Varga, also came to the event. He was also confronted by protestors, particularly ATU members, who unleashed a barrage of comments at Varga, who just received yet another raise, while bus drivers don’t have a contract. Varga had an exchange with one ATU member, then walked back to the corner of Monroe and Michigan and asked a cop to escort him (pictured on the right) down to the north side of the building.

The anti-DeVos demonstration lasted about two hours and certainly made it clear to those who attended the event and those driving by, that Betsy DeVos was not welcomed.

Lastly, there were about 15 pro-Trump/pro-DeVos people who also showed up, but they didn’t seem to be there for any other reason than to harass those in the anti-DeVos camp. They were not successful.

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