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American Patriot Rally in Grand Rapids defies Stay-at-Home order, with no regard for social distancing

May 19, 2020

Last night, between 300 – 400 people gathered in downtown Grand Rapids for what was billed as an American Patriot Rally. One of the main organizers, Ryan Kelley, has also been involved in several of the anti-lockdown protests in Lansing, as we reported last week.

The rally was held at Rosa Parks Circle, with dozens of police with the GRPD closing off streets with cruisers, cops on bikes, on horseback and on foot. The GRPD even had their own photographer present, taking pictures throughout the entire rally.

Just before the rally started, the Trump truck – a large flatbed truck that looks like a float – drove by on Monroe, which caused those gathering to erupt into applause. While the event organizers wanted to downplay partisan politics, it was clear that there was a substantial pro-Trump element at the rally, with shirts, hats and Trump 2020 signs. In addition, the event organizers took every opportunity to slam Gov. Whitmer, even using an audio-recording (out of context) at the beginning of the rally to make it sound like Whitmer was endorsing those who gathered in downtown Grand Rapids. There was also a large sign with Gov. Whitmer’s face, as can be seen in the photo above.

The rally began with 2 little girls doing a dance to a song with the refrain, “we all bleed the same.” After the dance, someone led the crown in the singing of the national anthem, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by an overtly Christian prayer.

Rally organizer Ryan Kelley also spoke briefly, before introducing a woman who was identified as a constitutional law expert. This person droned on about how the stay-at-home orders were a violation of the Michigan Constitution. Even many in the crowd were becoming restless, with all of the legal citations, but then applauded when that same person talked about the real authority to follow……Jesus.

There was a mix of both Hebrew and Christian scriptures that were cited throughout the rally, along with Christian prayers. At one point I noticed that some of the armed militia members, who were there to provide “security,” could be seen with their heads bowed and eyes closed during times of prayer.

There was also a man who was identified as a military veteran and a member of the Men’s Rights Movement, which is essentially a reactionary movement that has tried to undermine some of the gains made by the feminist movement.

However, the featured speaker was Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf. Leaf’s primary message was two-fold. First, he emphasized that the Stay-at-Home orders were unconstitutional, and secondly, that it is the duty of law enforcement agents everywhere to uphold the constitution, which in his mind would be to not allow or to not comply with the Stay-at-Home orders.

The majority of those who were present at the rally, not only were defying the social distancing policies, most people were also not wearing masks. At no point did the members of the GRPD do anything to enforce social distancing policies, they only seemed interested in making sure that the rally was contained.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, also addressed the crowd, thus making a clear connection between the GOP opposition to the Stay-at-Home orders and the anti-lockdown protests. We noted in an article last week, that rally organizer Ryan Kelley and Sen. Shirkey were texting each other during a recent anti-lockdown protest in Lansing.

Lastly, the crowd gathered at the American Patriot’s Rally was essentially a sea of White people, despite the efforts of rally organizers to downplay race and to deny that they were racists. In fact, one speaker even compared themselves and the barber who defied the Governor’s orders to not operate, as acting in the same spirit as Rosa Parks. Comparisons to Rosa Parks were just plain insulting, since it was clear that this rally was primarily driven by the politics of White resentment.

 

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