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Communities affected by police/ICE violence in Grand Rapids, release statement to City officials after demands deadline passes

May 15, 2019

Silence is the voice of complicity.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Since the beginning of 2019, there have been numerous demands coming from communities impact by police/ICE violence, demands presented to the Grand Rapids City Commission.

This effort began when the ACLU & MIRC sent a letter to the Grand Rapids City Commission, confronting them on the role that the GRPD played in the arrest of former US Marine and US Citizen, Jilmar Ramos-Gomez. 

In early February, Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE first presented a list of demands during at Grand Rapids City Commission meeting, demands that primarily centered around the relationship between the GRPD and ICE.

This effort was intensified at a late February City Commission meeting, where activists shut down the proceedings. The Grand Rapids Police Officers Association reacted to these demands and claimed that City officials were being “held hostage” by immigration activists. 

In the second week of March, the ACLU and MIRC filed an appeal with the City over the Jilmar Ramos-Gomez case. At this point two other groups from the African American community, who have also been deeply impacted by police violence, joined Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response in a Press Conference that was held outside of City Hall in late March. At this press conference, the list of demands placed before the City had expanded.

In April, the coalition of four groups attended by City Commission meetings, with one of the meetings centered on a proposed Human Rights Ordinance. Then, just before the end of April, the ACLU & MIRC held a press conference based on a FOIA request about ICE and GRPD interactions. The FOIA documents revealed not only racist elements of the GRPD in their dealings with Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, but also that the relationship between the GRPD and ICE was significant. 

The four community groups that have presented a list of demands several months ago, had put an April 30th deadline for a response from City officials about the demands.

Last night, in response to the City’s failure to meet the demands, the coalition of community groups released the following statement:

Statement from Movimiento Cosecha GR, GR Rapid Response to ICE, 360 Movement and Together We Are Safe

The Memo

Our coalition has been making an achievable list of demands (listed below) for the City of Grand Rapids since February of this year. We gave the City a clear deadline of April 30. The City of Grand Rapids has NOT directly responded to our demands for holding GRPD accountable and responsible for the police brutality and other incidents involving officer’s misconduct that violates public safety concerns along with ending all cooperation with ICE.

We are disappointed in the City’s actions. The failure of the City sends a message to our groups and to the oppressed populations from which these demands came – the Black and brown residential citizens as well as immigrant communities in our city.

Instead of a direct response, we received a copy of a memo from the Grand Rapids City Manager to the Mayor and the Commissioners. The memo vaguely addressed our overall concerns, but resulted in policy decisions that are counter to our demands. We asked for justice and the City responded with more bureaucracy. The City Manager has proposed:

• Creation of a five-person evening shift of community policing services.

• Addition of a crisis intervention and behavioral health specialist.

• Creation of a position in the Executive Office to work on public safety community relations.

There is no accountability, no money for trauma inflicted, no end of cooperation with ICE, and little support for community care.

The March

The city agreed to bring the issue of Driver’s Licenses to the Secretary of State and the West Michigan Delegation, yet for the Cosecha May 1st march for Driver’s Licenses the city demanded that Movimiento Cosecha GR obtain a permit.

This was the 3rd year for the march and the City has never required a permit in the past. The City threatened the immigrant community with arrest if we marched in the streets. This was a clear message that they were going to step up the repression against communities most affected by police and ICE violence. We continue to push for a formal resolution supporting Driver’s Licenses for All from the City of Grand Rapids.

Our Movements

While these responses from the City are disheartening, they in no way will impact our commitment to seeking accountability and transformative justice for Black, brown and immigrant communities.

If anything, the response from the City and GRPD has energized our movement to continue to fight for justice and to radically imagine a world where police, ICE agents, prisons, detention centers, and borders are no longer used as agents of oppression.

The City has postponed voting on their Human Rights Ordinance tonight. We believe that such an ordinance has no meaning if the GRPD can continue to harm Black, brown and immigrant communities and get away with it. Yet bureaucratic delays are dragging out even this basic symbolic gesture. It is more important than ever that we continue the fight for justice.

Original statement of demands

To the City Commission and GRPD:

We in the community, Movimiento Cosecha GR, GR Rapid Response to ICE, 360 GR Movement, and Together We Are Safe demand the following:

1. Support Driver’s Licenses for All in the State of Michigan.

2. Fire police officers who have committed brutality by beating and kicking Black drivers. Fire Captain Curt VanderKooi who has a long history of discrimination based on race and is not safe for our neighborhoods.

3. Stop all cooperation with ICE and use no city resources to do the work of ICE. There should be no police role of “ICE liaison.”

4. Release the code of conduct for officers and the track record of each officer’s misconduct report, including complaints against them. Release the reports of their investigations so that the public can track their accountability processes. Create an accountability reprimand policy for all officers that stand by during instances of beatings or other harm.

5. Create subpoena powers and investigative powers for our Civilian Appeals Board.

6. Give a vote of No Confidence to Acting Chief Kiddle.

7. Create a program whereby GRPD pays for at minimum 5 years of trauma-related therapy especially for any youth interaction deemed inappropriate regarding harassment, profiling, excessive force etc.

8. Regarding the million dollars over five years that the city has set aside to deal with community police relations: appropriate that to the community to keep our neighborhoods safe.

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