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Far Right news platform Breitbart, posts about the group Defund the GRPD

February 25, 2021

On Monday, the grassroots group known as Defund the GRPD, hosted an online Press Conference to talk about their work and the upcoming panel discussion they were hosting on Community Accountability.

I sat in on that Press Conference, since I am an ally in Defund the GRPD. Several Black organizers with Defund the GRPD spoke about the work of the group, their accomplishments and the upcoming panel discussion, before opening it up to questions from reporters. 

One thing that was obvious to this writer, was that the questions the reporters were asking, reflected that they didn’t really get the organizational framework of Defund the GRPD, nor did they understand the group’s theory of change. Reporters kept wanting to find out if Defund the GRPD was going to pass a charter amendment to challenge the 32% mandated City Budget allocation for the GRPD, which was adopted in 1995.

In the end the Black organizers with Defund the GRPD didn’t leave the reporters anywhere to go, since they stuck to their talking points, which resulted in local news agencies essentially provided an overview of what was said during the Monday Press Conference.

However, this did not prevent other dominant news sources from picking up the story. One dominant news source Breitbart, which caters to the far right, posted a story on the Defund the GRPD Press Conference this past Tuesday. The article that appeared on Breitbart was written by Kyle Olson, with a headline that read, Defund the Police’ Returns: Activists Demand Deep Cut in Michigan

The large photo that appears just below the headline show a masked person in the foreground with several items on fire in the background. The picture is credited to David Ryder, who is a Seattle-based photographer, so the picture has nothing to do with Grand Rapids or Defund the GRPD, but it provides Breitnart readers with the kind of imagery that the far right associates with Black Lives Matter or any other group that is critical of policing in America.

There are also several prominent ads on the page that has the article by Kyle Olson, particularly ads from the NRA on gun purchases and an ad from a pro-israeli group known as Stand for Israel. 

It is also important to note that besides being a reporter for Breitbart, Kyle Olson also has syndicated radio show that airs Saturdays on Michigan stations, called The Kyle Olson Show. Olson is also the founder of a group based out of Muskegon, Michigan called Education Action Group, which hates teacher unions and promotes the same Neo-liberal model of Education that Betsy DeVos does, such as School Vouchers, Charter Schools and the privatization of public education.  

The article by Kyle Olson about Defund the GRPD isn’t particularly bad, since he was relying on what other West Michigan News agencies reported. The article is very short and half of the story consists of Olson cutting and pasting from the Defund the GRPD Facebook page, specifically about the Worst of GR Awards.

While the article on Breitbart is not terribly problematic, the more important issue is that it is on Breitbart. Since Breitbart posted a story about Defund GRPD, it now leaves that group and their organizers open to even more harassment from those who embrace White Supremacist values, which condemns anyone who is critical of or challenges the function of law enforcement agencies, like the Grand Rapids Police Department.

In late January, we wrote a piece that was critical of Kids Food Basket, particularly because their lawyers sent threatening letters to Defund the GRPD organizers. This threat was coming from a liberal non-profit group, so imagine what potential harm could come from the far right audience that relies on Breitbart. If you are an ally, an accomplice in anti-racism work, particularly anti-racism work that is led by Black organizers, you need to not only know about the potential threats to Defund the GRPD, you need to demonstrate your solidarity with their work. Join the Community Conversation on Accountability on Thursday, February 25th at 7pm, listen to what Black organizers are saying and support their work. 

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