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Grand Rapids participates in statewide Solidarity Action, GRPD threatens activists with arrest

August 22, 2020

On Saturday, there was a solidarity action in downtown Grand Rapids, which coincided with actions across the state that was initiated by organizers in Detroit called Detroit Will Breathe.

The event took place right where the Rosa Parks statue is in downtown Grand Rapids, which information booths, sign holding a speakers. I was only there for the first hour, but there was plenty of activity and some tensions because of another “rally” that was taking place just south of the solidarity action, along Monroe.

The other “rally” was part of the Save the Children Movement, which, as the New York Times has pointed out, has been hijacked by QAnon followers. 

I was able to interview someone who was doing crowd safety for the solidarity action, who talks about his interaction with some of the Save the Children people and then a brief interaction from a cop with the GRPD, who threatened to arrest people, specifically a young latinx organizer. Here is that interview. 

The Solidarity action that took place across the state also had a list of demands, which continued to reflect how numerous movements have been working together since the pandemic hit and after George Floyd was lynched by a cop in Minneapolis. These demands are important and reflect a growing sense of urgency of not wanting to simply return to normal after the pandemic or after the 2020 elections.

Demands

1. No Federal Agents – We demand the immediate withdrawal of federal agents from our communities including DEA, CBP, ICE, ATF and all other vigilante federal law enforcement agencies. Federal agents act with impunity, violating our right to privacy through mass surveillance, and criminalizing poverty. Programs such as Operation Legend allow federal agents to terrorize immigrant communities with deportation under the guise of crime control by local police cooperating with ICE. In Black communities, the use of federal agents to address crime is a hollow response from the federal government that is intended to further incarcerate and impoverish Black people. We demand the federal government instead use the funds to support social and community services that lead to a higher quality of life and ultimate crime reduction such as public education, libraries, community centers, mental health services and more. 

2. No School Re-openings until there are no new cases in the state – In Detroit, three students have tested positive for COVID-19 out of the 280 students who were tested in the summer school program. Now the district following guidance from the state plans to continue with in person classes. This is an experiment on Black and Brown children which puts their lives at risk for no other reason than to get their parents back at work and restart the economy. Black and Brown children must not be sacrificed for economic gain. The state legislature has consolidated control over the public school system in Michigan by defunding and marginalizing Black majority school districts since 1994. The push to open schools in Detroit is a result of the district being targeted by the state and insufficiently funded. Classrooms were overcrowded and inadequate for learning before COVID -19 and In a moment in which social distancing is imperative for preserving human life, children and their families are being forced to subject themselves to possible infection. 

3. Defund the police and the DOC – The Michigan State Police budget will reach $726 million dollars in 2021. That is a $33 million dollar increase from 2018. This ever increasing investment into police forces has not made our communities safer. ¾ of a billion dollars for military grade equipment, surveillance technology, and the hiring of more officers has not solved issues of public safety in Black and Brown communities, it has only made them worse through police violence and the defunding of social and community programs needed to improve quality of life. Through the use of fusion centers, like those in Detroit and Lansing, the MSP has participated in a federal incursion into the state of Michigan. We demand the MSP halt its joint operations involving federal agents. We demand that the MSP be immediately  defunded and those state tax dollars be used for housing, education, and social services. It is a blatant injustice that the MSP budget is $276 million dollars more than what the state spends on education.

The Michigan Department of Corrections has an annual budget of $2 billion dollars and Governor Gretchen Whitmer has proposed a $100 million dollar increase in 2021 and 2022.  This continued investment in mass incarceration by the state of Michigan has devastated Black and Brown communities. We demand that the state halt investment into the 33 state corrections facilities and immediately release all those who have been convicted of nonviolent offenses. We demand that the state of Michigan reallocate these funds to the communities that mass incarceration has destroyed. These funds must be directed back into communities in the form of education, housing, and guaranteed employment for the formerly incarcerated.

4. No evictions in the state of Michigan-provide rent relief – As the statewide ban on evictions has been lifted 75,000 people across the state are facing eviction.The state’s poorest Black and Brown communities are facing massive evictions, such as in Detroit, where nearly 4000 evictions have been filed with the court and are awaiting hearings. This is an attack on Black and Brown communities and an attempt to further gentrification efforts which will ultimately lead to mass homelessness and devastation of Black and Brown families. We call for the suspension of rent until 60 days after the pandemic has cleared and the allocation of funds to pay the surplus of rent.

5. Immediately release of all undocumented immigrants and non violent offenders being detained in the state. Make Michigan a Sanctuary State – On June 7th, The Detroit Free Press Reported “There are currently 63 ICE detainees at three county jails in Michigan — St. Clair County, Morrow County, Calhoun County — who have tested positive for coronavirus, according to ICE statistics. There are 3,113 ICE detainees nationally who have tested positive.” The continued detaining of undocumented people and children is inhumane, and particularly disgusting during a pandemic.

4,037 prisoners in Michigan have tested positive, with 68 deaths reported. The continued detainment of Black and Brown people in unsanitary conditions without access to quality healthcare has led to an infection rate higher than that of the state. We see this along with the detainment of non-violent offenders as a furthered attack on the lives of Black and Brown people and demand their immediate release.

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