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GRIID Year in Review Part IV: Reporting on the Power of Social Movements in Grand Rapids in 2020

December 22, 2020

(Editor’s note: GRIID does not ask for money, since we do not to make money for the IndyMedia we produce. We do, however, invite people to share our content, as we believe it can help foster important conversation about critical issues in this community.)

On Friday, we shared Part I of this four part series, with a look at how GRIID continues to monitor the news media and deconstruct their narratives. In Part II, we looked at the 2020 GRIID posts that looked at what the Grand Rapids Power Structure was up to. In Part III, we looked at the COVID crisis, specifically through the lens of how systems of power responded to the crisis, who is benefiting from the pandemic and which communities are the most hard hit. In today’s post we will look back at all of the amazing work done by social movements in Grand Rapids.

Immigrant Justice Movement

There are several established social movements in the Grand Rapids area, some of which were born in 2017, such as the immigrant justice movement, led by Movimiento Cosecha GR and supported by GR Rapid Response to ICE. Since much of 2020 has been impacted by the COVID crisis, Cosecha and their allies have been fighting to get support for undocumented immigrants, which are not eligible for federal relief funds. The pressure that Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE applied since March, when the COVID crisis hit, resulted in the creation of the La Lucha Fund in Grand Rapids. 

However, Cosecha GR has primarily focused on their Driver’s Licenses for All campaign, which saw them pressuring local governments to support the statewide campaign to pass legislation to once again allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. We reported on Cosecha GR actions in February at the Wyoming City Commission, which often exposed the deep levels of racism and xenophobia that immigrants face in this community.

Like in previous years, Cosecha GR organized their annual May Day action, which was a car caravan, due to the COVID crisis.  In September, Cosecha GR, along with Cosecha circles from across the state, converged on Lansing to pressure state lawmakers to host public hearings on Driver’s Licenses for All.  Since then, Cosecha GR has been pressuring other state legislators, by doing demonstrations outside of their homes, like the action they did outside of State Representative O’Malley’s home in November. 

GR Rapid Response to ICE has primarily been doing Mutual Aid for due to the limited ICE activity since the beginning of the COVID crisis, providing support to Cosecha’s work and kicking off a campaign to invite more of the faith community to become sanctuaries for the undocumented

However, maybe the most revealing work done by Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE, was submitting a FOIA request to the City of Grand Rapids, in order to obtain information on GRPD surveillance of the immigrant justice movement, specifically the May 1, 2019 action organized by Cosecha GR. The FOIA request resulted in 271 pages of documents that were mostly redacted, since the GRPD did not want to make public the kind of repressive tactics they have been using against the immigrant justice movement since 2017.

Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network

Another amazing social movement we documented was the work of the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network (GRAMAN). Several organizers who were doing work with GR Rapid Response to ICE, who had a history of doing Mutual Aid work, started a Mutual Aid Fund for those impacted by the COVID crisis, beginning in March, when we did an interview with them

Since then, GRAMAN has raised over $100,000, providing Black, latinx and indigenous families with financial support, food support and PPE support. The amount of money they continue to raise is amazing, but what has also been amazing is the number of people who have stepped forward to be part of this Mutual Aid work, demonstrating once again the belief that everything we need can be found in our community. The work of GRAMAN has been inspiring to so many, plus it also exposes the eep failures of the Capitalist system to actually meet the needs of people, plus it has shown that local governments also o not serve those who are the most marginalized.

Movements confronting White Supremacy: From Justice for Black Lives to Defund the GRPD

No one could have predicted that the public lynching of George Floyd would have sparked such a massive, insurgent anti-White Supremacy movement, but in May of 2020, this is exactly what happened. In Grand Rapids, there were protests organized for May 30th, but those protests led to a rebellion in Grand Rapids, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since 1967

There was a lot of posturing that came out of the May 30th rebellion in Grand Rapids, both from City officials, but also lots of organizations that continued to counsel caution and reform. However, too many people were not buying that same old reformist mantra an two groups/movements that came out of the May 30th rebellion in Grand Rapids were Black Lives for Justice and DeFund the GRPD.

Justice for Black Lives has kept the pressure on to maintain a presence in the streets, protesting White Supremacy and Structural Racism in Grand Rapids, while DeFund the GRPD has worked to challenge the ridiculous amount of public money that funds the police in Grand Rapids, to demystify that function of policing and to call for divestment in policing in order to invest in the Black community.

GRIID has devoted over 50 posts since June on the work of these two movements, along with numerous posts that provides analysis of the GRPD budget and how City officials have been trying to undermine the efforts of these movements. What follows are some highlights of this movement work and accompanying analysis:

A Brief History of how the GRPD responds to protests and dissent 

If Grand Rapids really wanted to promote anti-racism and equity, then they would embrace Defund the GRPD 

How did a third of the City’s Budget get designated to the GRPD: The Safety 95 Campaign and White fear in Grand Rapids 

Grand Rapids Police Officers Association releases statement against the calls for Defunding the GRPD 

Defund the GRPD campaign makes clear demands on the City of Grand Rapids during Press Conference 

We don’t need no stinking permits to protest: 100 years of dissent and disruption in Grand Rapids 

The GRPD & Respectability Politics vs Community Control over public safety

Grand Rapids is using bureaucratic management to further marginalize the Defund the GRPD campaign 

Setting the parameters for input by controlling the narrative: The GRPD Strategic Plan Survey 

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

The GRPD planned for another riot in the wake of no justice for Breonna Taylor action  

Kent County Commission collaborates with Grand Rapids City Commission to redirect CARES ACT funds to the GRPD, while thousands of families in the area are fighting to stay alive 

GRPD moves forward on ShotSpotter technology, ignoring public concerns and minimizing community opposition 

City Resolution to accept $500,000 from the county for crime prevention defeated, GRPD plans to move forward with pursuing ShotSpotter 

Gun Violence, Structural Violence and the GRPD 

In addition, we documented these movement to defund the GRPD and the ongoing street protests against White Supremacy, with a post entitled, A visual timeline of how the GRPD has tried to control the narrative about public safety since the May 30th rebellion in Grand Rapids.

Lastly, we did not include other movement work in Grand Rapids, but want to acknowledge the work of other Black, Indigenous, latinx and queer organizing that had a significant impact on this community, along with groups like Together We Are Safe, the Urban Core Collective, the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union and Grand Rapids for Education Justice, all of which are making an impact on structural change in Grand Rapids.

In 2021, GRIID will continue to be a media watchdog, exposed those in power and write about the social movements in Grand Rapids, which are ultimately the only thing that challenges the systems of power and oppression that are part of the very fabric of the city we call Grand Rapids.

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