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GRIID End of Year Review Part II – Documenting Grand Rapids Social Movements

December 27, 2018

In Part I of our End of the Year Review, we wrote about our monitoring and analysis about the Grand Rapids Power Structure. In today’s post, we will be providing an overview of the Grand Rapids Social Movement activity of the past year.

2018 was an election year, which means that social movements often take a back seat. Electoral politics often redirects the energy and resources that people invest in social movements and 2018 was no exception to that dynamic.

There was some organizing around housing issues in Grand Rapids, but most of that was done through non-profits and not the people most directly affected by homelessness and gentrification. There was also some organizing around police violence, specifically directed at the black and latino/latinx communities, but it was not sustained, so one would be hard pressed to call it a movement.

Then there was some limited organizing and public debate around gun control, especially after the Parkland shooting. However, besides a few small protests, these efforts, mostly involving students, were quickly redirected to electoral politics instead of movement building.

The reality is, that the only sustain social movement in Grand Rapids was around immigration, mostly led by immigrants, but also involving allies working with the group Movimiento Cosecha GR.

The first major immigration action took place in January, when Congress was debating whether or not to continue the federal policy known as DACA. People from Grand Rapids went to DC to take part in actions and then organized an action on January 19, where protestors shut down traffic at an intersection by the Grand Rapids Federal Building.

At that January 19 action, police officers did not act when motorists forced their way through the protestors on the street. Movimiento Cosecha GR held a press conference in response to this form of state violence in February. The GRPD showed up to intimidate the immigrant-led group and then waited in the parking lot to make sure that they could talk to the news media that came to the press conference.

Then in March, a church which was working with the group GR Rapid Response to ICE, publicly declared themselves a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

Beginning in early April, Movimiento Cosecha GR began promoting their upcoming days of action, which would begin at the end of April. These four days of action were part of a larger strategy of getting to a seven day strike, where immigrants and allies would demonstrate the kind of economic power they have to force the country to come to terms with the unjust immigration policies that currently permeate the US.

Movimiento Cosecha GR also used these four days of action to kick-off their campaign to get drivers licenses for all in Michigan. On April 30th, the movement participated in an action at the Secretary of State’s office in Wyoming, MI.

On May 1st, an estimated 2,000 people marched in the streets of Grand Rapids to demonstrate the power of immigrants. The GRPD had increased their presence during the march and tried to dictated the route, but movement organizers would not comply, thus demonstrating their commitment to a truly grassroots politics that took its direction from the people most impacted by the unjust immigration policies.

While these actions were being organized, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was continuing to terrorize the immigrant community in West Michigan and GRIID consistently wrote about ICE oppression, like in an article we published in early May.

Then the Trump administration decided to further criminalize immigrants and took action against immigrant families at the US/Mexican border in June. Images of children being taken from their families and put in cages soon went viral and Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE began a campaign to end the contract that ICE had with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. The first big action took place on June 28th, where several hundred people came to Kent County Commission meeting and ended up taking over the meeting.

Since the End the Contract campaign began in late June, Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE have participated in over a dozen actions on the contract, plus Movimiento Cosecha GR organized a 5 day pilgrimage to Lansing for their drivers licenses for all campaign. Here is a list of the posts we did to document this powerful movement for justice:

Cosecha GR confronts the contradictions of July 4th in America 

End the Contract with ICE campaign visits Commissioner Saalfeld’s house 

Some observations on the End the Contract action at the Kent County Commission meeting 

End the Contract Rally at the Jail: What you wouldn’t learn from the Fox 17 story 

End the Contract campaign returns to the County Commission meeting 

The People’s Commission and the End the Contract with ICE campaign action expands list of demands from the County 

ICE out of Kent County campaign disrupts ArtPrize event

Grand Rapids participates in the national No Business With ICE Action Day 

GRPD threatened to arrest members of Movimiento Cosecha for chanting near the ArtPrize closing ceremony event 

We don’t want promises, We want Licenses: Movimiento Cosecha rally inspires! 

Lawyers present case that Kent County doesn’t need to comply with ICE, yet majority of the Commissioners fail to take action 

Documents from FOIA request about Kent County ICE Contract reveal several important points 

Diversity of Tactics, Movement Building and the campaign to End the ICE contract with Kent County 

Kent County Administrative Staff and Commissioners establish Immigration Focus Group 

A critical examination of how WOOD TV 8 reported on Grand Rapids protest connecting violence against asylum seekers at the border and family separation in Kent County 



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