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GRPD shows up at Cosecha Press Conference, intimidates organizers, then waits in the parking lot for an hour to change the news coverage narrative

February 22, 2018

Yesterday, the immigrant justice group, Cosecha GR, held a press conference to call out  law enforcement agencies on their behavior during a January 19 action in downtown Grand Rapids.

The demonstration took place near the Federal building, where those engaged in the action shut down traffic during rush hour. However, during the protest a motorist hit two people and in the aftermath of that violence the GRPD, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and at least two federal marshals did nothing to pursue the motorist who hit those demonstrating or prevent further violence against those protesting in the street, which we reported on previously

Before the Press Conference, Cosecha GR received a request from a reporter with MLive to “embargo” the video and allow him to vet it for legitimacy. The MLive reporter wanted Cosecha GR to send the video to MLive only and the vetting of the video was likely to go through the GRPD.

Such suspicion was verified, when this writer showed up before the noon time press conference and saw two GRPD cruisers in the parking lot of the Micah Center. Inside the building there were two officers with the GRPD, who were asking if Cosecha GR, “needed any help with their event.” A rather curious question, considering that this was a press conference, so why would the police be there, let alone ask if there assistance was needed?

Organizers of the Cosecha GR press conference asked the officers to leave and the press conference proceeded with news agencies from MLive, WZZM 13, Fox 17 and La Poderosa Radio.

The local news media received the following press release (posted below), which is the same message that Cosecha GR provided during the press conference, including several eye witnesses.

After the press conference, while walking out to the parking lot of the Micah Center, we could see the GRPD being interviewed by the three English language media outlets. Apparently, the GRPD waited around for an hour in order to tell “their side” of the story to the news media. This leads us to ask the question, did the GRPD show up at the Cosecha GR press conference because they were tipped off by the news media or because they are monitoring the communications between Cosecha GR members?

How the News Media Framed the issue

Despite the efforts of Cosecha GR to tell their story about what happened at the January 19 DACA protest, the local news media changed the narrative. The most egregious example, was what MLive posted. You can see the headline here, which frames it as protestors in the middle of the street, instead of referencing the time honored tradition of blocking traffic, as was mentioned in the Cosecha GR press release, which refers to the example of the 1963 march in Selma.

The MLive article then goes on to give the GRPD plenty of opportunities to respond to the claims of Cosecha GR. Here is one of the more ridiculous responses:

“You know what would solve this whole problem?” the officer said in response. “Not impeding traffic.”

Again, a complete lack of understanding about the tactic of shutting down traffic, in order to make the point that Cosecha GR made during the Press Conference and at all of their protests, which says, “we will stop interrupting your lives when you stop interrupting ours.” As long as ICE agents and local law enforcement arrest, detain and deport immigrants, Cosecha GR will resist this.

The GRPD also states in the MLive article that they come to protests to keep people safe, which was not the case in this instance, and that people need to request a permit to have these kinds of actions. The city of Grand Rapids wants people to get permits to protest, since it costs money and it allows the police to know what groups are doing. However, the organizers of the protest on January 19 did not request a permit, since they believe that they do not need permission to fight for justice, plus their choice to be in the street blocking traffic was because they were intending to engage in civil disobedience.

You can watch the coverage on WZZM 13 and WXMI 17, which also provides plenty of airtime to the GRPD.

Ultimately, what happened yesterday was that the GRPD, by showing up at the Cosecha Press conference was to: 1) intimidate those fighting for immigration justice, and 2) attempt to discredit the efforts of Cosecha GR by changing the narrative about what happened during the January 19 protest.

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