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Gauntlet of Shame greeted Acton Institute event attendees and Betsy DeVos supporters in Grand Rapids last night

October 19, 2017

As we reported on last month, Betsy DeVos was the keynote speaker at the Acton Institute’s 27th annual gala event, held at the DeVos Convention last night. 

The protest outside was designed to make it uncomfortable for those attending the event, which were largely members of the capitalist class. The Acton Institute set up valet parking right along Monroe St. in front of the Convention Center, but some people chose to park in the ramp across the street under the city/county building. Either way, people who were attending the Acton Institute event had to pass through a gauntlet of protestors who greeted them with whistles, signs and chants of “Shame” as they entered the building.


The idea behind the Gauntlet of Shame was to communicate clearly to the Capitalist Class that what they do and what they support causes actual harm to people, especially to those most marginalized. We know that what the Acton Institute stands for, which is primarily about the neoliberal capitalism – profits over people, the privatization of public services, attacks against public education, dismantling unions – that these policies cause tremendous harm to working class people and especially to communities of color.

Another aspect about last night’s protest was that people were not there to engage in a dialogue. The Capitalist Class isn’t going to change, because they benefit from the systems that are in place. We were there to make people feel uncomfortable, because of all the harm they cause in the world. Here is the text of a handout that someone made, which sums up well the reasons why people were confronting those attending the Acton Institute Gala event.

Cops and War Criminals

The police presence was minimal when the demonstration began last night, with some cops in cars and others on bikes to keep an eye on those protesting. However, once it became clear that the protest was not the usual sign holding affair and that people were being made to feel uncomfortable, the police numbers grew.

The protest was concentrated at the main convention center entrance off of Monroe, so the police presence was heavy there, with 6 cops standing in front of the doors (along with convention center security) and then several other cops around the perimeter of that entrance, since people were coming from the north and south side of Monroe to enter the building. The police were even escorting members of the Capitalist Class from the valet area to the building.

At one point, just before he entered the building, people recognized the brother of Betsy DeVos, Erik Prince, who was attending the Acton Institute event. Immediately, people began shouting War Criminal at Prince and walking towards him. The police stood in front of those attempting to get closer to Prince, and just before he entered the building he blew a kiss to those protesting. This gesture was nothing more than a big “Fuck You” to everyone outside. Erik Prince can arrogantly make these gestures because he knows that the current political and economic system will protect people like him, despite the fact that the mercenary corporation he used to own, Blackwater, was responsible for the murder of innocent Iraqi civilians. Prince himself lived in the United Arab Emirates for several years to avoid extradition for his role in those murders. The Capitalist Class gets to live in this world, causing tremendous harm, and then they do not have to suffer the consequences of their actions.

The protest against the Acton Institute and Betsy DeVos began at 5:30pm and ended just after 7pm, since the dinner/keynote address was scheduled for 7pm. People left feeling energized, especially since this was an action that was focused on directly confronting those who attended the Acton Institute and those who support the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.



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