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Ending the ICE contract with Kent County and yesterday’s action at the Kent County Commission meeting

June 29, 2018

( As a matter of transparency, I was part of the action at this meeting and one of those arrested yesterday for demanding that Kent County End their contract with ICE.)

For those of you who read this blog, you are well aware of the fact that yesterday, nearly 200 people came to the Kent County Commission meeting to demand that they end the county’s contract with ICE.

Yesterday, MLive ran an article where they interviewed Kent County Commission Chairman Jim Saalfeld. Here is what he said in that article:

“There were comments from the larger group that made me nervous this was going to turn into something more, which is why I suspended the meeting at that point,” chairman Jim Saalfeld said later in the meeting. “That was a discussion I had with the sheriff’s department and the leadership in advance that that is the type of approach we did in order to downplay the risk of violence.”

First, it seems that Saalfeld and other commissioners feel nervous when residents of Kent County decide to actively take part in policies that directly impact them and the people they care about. Second, there was never any risk of violence from the people who came to the commission meeting. The only people there who we now of who already engage in acts of violence were the members of the Sheriff’s Department and the Kent County Commissioners themselves. The Sheriff’s Department administers the contract with ICE and the Kent County Commission voted to approve it. This is the real violence and the reason why so many people came to demand that the county end the contract with ICE.

The MLive article also mention that Saalfeld had told the Sheriff’s deputies to remove a member of Movimiento Cosecha GR, Karla Barberi, because she asked someone at the podium to let immigrants speak about an urgent matter. Saalfeld said that Karla pushed the man at the podium, which was totally false. You can see from the video here that this never happened. What MLive did not report, was that the man who was at the podium, was John Kennedy. John Kennedy (pictured on the right) is the CEO of AutoCam, one of the wealthiest people in Kent County, a member of the Grand Rapids Power Structure and someone who actively supports far right policies, with both his money and his time. John Kennedy is on the board of the West Michigan Policy Forum, is active with the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, sits on the Board of the Acton Institute, the Right Place Inc and is on the Board of Trustees at GVSU. He has publicly opposed the Affordable Health Care Act and always supports policies that hurt working people, especially unions. Kennedy also also contributed millions to federal, state and local Republican candidates in recent years, many of which have introduced legislation that promotes neo-liberal capitalism and the austerity measures that come with it.

One additional observation, since there have been numerous comments about what the Kent County Commissioners did during the meeting yesterday. The majority of commissioners left, which people noted was cowardly. There were some that stayed and others thanked them for staying to hear what people had to say. I understand people wanting to thank them. However, why are we thanking people who were elected to supposedly listen to public concerns in the first place? Why do we feel the need to affirm politicians who are paid through public tax dollars to sit and listen to members of the public? I for one am not going to thank any of them, until they take a public stance against the contract with ICE and then end the contract.





  1. GRPD Narrative vs the Immigrant Community Narrative | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  2. Cosecha GR confronts the contradictions of July 4th in America | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  3. Grand Rapids Power Structure: Part X – Movements for Reform or Movements for Collective Liberation? | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  4. End the Contract with ICE campaign visits Commissioner Saalfeld’s house | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  5. The Fight continues in the campaign to end the ICE contract in Kent County | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  6. Resisting ICE in Kent County: What we have learned so far | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  7. GRIID End of Year Review Part II – Documenting Grand Rapids Social Movements | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  8. The Immigrant Justice Movement in Grand Rapids Part II | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  9. We don’t need no stinking permits to protest: 100 years of dissent and disruption in Grand Rapids | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  10. A Primary Election Reflection for Kent County | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  11. A People’s History of the End the Contract Campaign in Kent County | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  12. Mayor Bliss threatens to change public meeting rules, previous commission meeting disruptions, and the Justice for Patrick Lyoya Movement | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

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