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Community groups confront GR City Commission over GRPD’s role in ICE violence, call for cop to be fired!

February 27, 2019

About 40 members of the public, including representatives from Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE showed up to the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting last night, in part as a response to the newly released documents that were obtained from the GRPD by the ACLU and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC).

The documents provide conclusive evidence that Jilmar Ramos-Gomez was racially profiled. In addition, the documents show that the GRPD officer who contacted ICE was not even on the job, instead he saw a news story and contacted ICE.

Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE were calling for Captain Curt VanderKooi, a member of the GRPD, to be fired from the police department because of the racist action he took in collaboration with ICE. The two groups even have an online petition campaign to pressure the city to fire VanderKooi

However, in preparation of the public outcry, the City Manager invited the act-Police Chief to get up and speak, or rather to read a statement, which basically justified the GRPD’s role in contacting ICE, leading to the arrest and detention of Jilamr Ramos-Gomez.

The acting-Police Chief then read an apology from Captain Curt VanderKooi, who claims he regrets using the language that he did.

This was a complete PR stunt on the part of the City of Grand Rapids, in an attempt to head-off the public outrage that was evident, even while the acting-Police Chief was reading the canned statement.

Amy Carpenter, with Movimiento Cosecha GR, then came forward and asked, since the acting-Police Chief was given an opportunity to address the issue of GRPD’s complicity with ICE to do harm to Jilmar Ramos-Gomez. The Mayor said no, so members of Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE stood up and began chanting “Cops and ICE go hand in hand” and “Let us speak.” There was some back and forth between the Mayor and the public about how unfair it was to allow the acting-Police Chief to speak on the issue that dozens from the public came to address. It seemed unfair and unjust to those who were in attendance, since allowing the acting-Police Chief to speak set the tone for the entire evening.

Once it came time for public comment,virtually everyone got up to speak about the treatment of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez and the GRPD’s involvement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Several people got up and demanded that Captain VanderKooi should be fired, that the City should not use one cent of resources to support ICE and to support the Driver’s License Campaign being organized by Movimiento Cosecha GR.

Mary Alice Williams, a former City Commissioner, also spoke and said that she stands with the immigrant community and to say that Captain VanderKooi is not a racist just because of the language that he used, but more importantly because of the fact that he called ICE about Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, which was nothing short of racial profiling.

Deirdre Cunningham said that they suffer from PTSD and yet they were never arrested because of the color of their skin. They also called for the the firing of Curt VanderKooi.

Lindsay Rosa, a local social worker, who spoke to how Captian Curt VanderKooi has a history of this kind of racist behavior and has profiled many immigrants in the past. Rosa shared several stories about how VanderKooi has treated many immigrants that she has directly worked with.

Jose Flores, a current GRPS School Board member, spoke out against racial profiling and police abuse and demanded that the City do better to serve the public. Flores confronted the City Manager and demanded that the city either suspend or dismiss Captain VanderKooi.

Phillip Snyder said that whatever we say it doesn’t matter, since the City Commissioners are only concerned about not upsetting the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and other members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure. He not only demanded that Captain VanderKooi be fired, but that the City of Grand Rapids should become a Sanctuary City.

Alex Kelly addressed the issue of police harassment and threat of violence during Movimiento Cosecha GR marches and other actions. Kelly made it clear that the GRPD, often with involvement with the Sheriff’s Department, serves only to intimidate and threaten members of the immigrant community and their allies.

Hillary Scholten, a lawyer with MIRC, also spoke and addressed how the acting-Police Chief’s comments at the beginning of the meeting were selective and inaccurate. She was followed by two lawyers from the ACLU, one asking, “what does it take for the GRPD to hold their officers accountable.”

Miriam Aukerman, also with the ACLU, said that the behavior of the GRPD was both unfair and a form of racial profiling. Miriam then went on to dismantle the claims that the GRPD officer acted in an effort to stop terrorism. She ended by saying, “that the time is past for pious words, we need real action.”

A little girl got up and said that Captain VanderKooi got her friend deported and that he should be fired.

Someone from the group Equity PAC spoke about the internal affairs review and how the GRPD found there was “nothing wrong” with what happened to Jilmar Ramos-Gomez. He said that he stands with Movimiento Cosecha GR and that the city needs to be accountable for what the GRPD is doing.

There were also several members of the African American community who stood in solidarity with Movimiento Cosecha GRa and called for the termination of Captain Curt VanderKooi.

One young Latino man got up to speak and pulled out his phone, then said he was calling ICE on one of the City Commissioners, because she didn’t look white. He ended by says that the GRPD collaboration with ICE is just sick.

Lorena Aguayo-Marquez, also with Movimiento Cosecha GR, said that it was a joke for the police to investigate themselves in regard to the case of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez. “I don’t want to have to carry a passport in my own community and I don’t want to live in fear of police and ICE violence.”

Amy Carpenter, with Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE, then read a resolution that both groups were demanding that the city adopt as a clear action they can take. The resolution is included below.

At this moment several dozen members and supporters of Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE stood up and moved to the front and once again began chanting, “Cops and ICE go hand in hand.” This went on for several minutes, until the Mayor hit the gavel and ended the meeting.

(Photo credit to John Rothwell)

 

Resolution

We, the undersigned elected city commissioners, do hereby recognize our responsibility to our immigrant neighbors.

Whereas –

• Municipalities all over the country are ending their contracts with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) because of public outcry over the terror and violence wrought by ICE;

• Our immigrant neighbors, who are an important part of the social, cultural, and economic fabric of our city, are living under the threat of terror and violence from ICE;

• Families are being separated in our city of Grand Rapids with the involvement of the Grand Rapids Police Department;

• and whereas we as commissioners have a responsibility to provide moral leadership in Grand Rapids as our duty to the electorate;

We do hereby resolve the following:

• We will end all GRPD cooperation with ICE;

• We will not allow for any city resources to be used for the purposes of ICE’s work or to detain our immigrant neighbors based on their immigration status;

• We publicly support the Driver’s Licenses for All campaign and call for the State of Michigan to make driver’s licenses available for under-documented immigrants again.

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