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White Supremacy in Allendale: Racism on Trial activists go public

March 8, 2021

Four activists are going public with a message to the larger West Michigan community, a message that says White Supremacy will not be tolerated.

The four activists in question have court dates later this month, but they wanted to send out a Media Release (see below) to clarify why they took the actions that they did.

In May of 2020, after a Minneapolis police officer publicly lynched George Floyd, a rebellion took place in cities across the US. The Black Lives Matter actions sent a strong message to those who refused to acknowledge that Structural Racism is deeply entrenched in this society and its institutions. 

All across the US there were calls for defunding the police, abolishing the prison industrial complex, changing the names of sports teams and purging consumer culture of longstanding racist images that accompanied numerous products. 

One area of resistance to White Supremacy and its legacy has been centered on the removal of statues and historical markers that perpetuate the legacy of slavery and settler colonialism. Just weeks after the public lynching of George Floyd, activists and community organizers targeted a Confederate statue in Allendale, Michigan. 

The statue in question has continued to be source of conflict between those who refuse to acknowledge the ways in which White Supremacy permeate our society and those who seek to dismantle the ways in which White Supremacy manifests itself in our communities. 

As a matter of transparency, the four activists listed in the Media Release below, asked this writer to be their Media Liaison. I sent out this Media Release and am working with the activists to be a bridge between them and area news agencies.

As someone who has been a media watchdog for nearly three decades in West Michigan, I urge people to think critically and apply media literacy principles to how the local news has been and will continue to report on White Supremacy in this media market. Pay attention to the sources cited in the stories, how the news agencies are framing the story and what kind of push back will result from centers of power and oppression, particularly from Allendale Township.

The importance of what the four activists have done in regards to the Confederate statue in Allendale, is a microcosm of a much larger problem of how White Supremacy permeates our institutions and how too many of us continue to tolerate its existence, often in the name of civility. I urge all of those reading this to use this moment as an opportunity to have the difficult and uncomfortable conversations about White Supremacy and then to take an active role in being part of the important anti-racist work that is being done, particularly the work that is being led by Black, Indigenous and other communities of color. 

Please read the Media Release below. Some of the photos used in this post are from the four activists and these photos are what was sent to the local news agencies, along with the Media Release.

Racism on Trial in Allendale, Michigan 

Peaceful anti-racism demonstrators charged with alleged “vandalism,” “littering,” and “disobeying a park sign.”

On January 8th—just two days after violent White Supremacists, including at least one township official, attacked the United States Capitol—officials from Allendale Charter Township filed misdemeanor criminal charges against four activists affiliated with the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists or MACRA.

Mitchell Kahle and Holly Huber, of Norton Shores, and Anthony Miller and Jessica Miller (Griffin), of Allendale, are each alleged of multiple counts in five separate complaints.

“This is a political prosecution designed to chill free speech and quell activists’ opposition to the township’s racist statues,” Kahle said.

“This is a prosecution against minorities in our community, to silence us, keep the township status quo, and remind people of color of ‘their place’ in American society,” Miller (Griffin) said.

Allendale has been at the center of controversy since last June, when protests erupted over a concrete statue—honoring Confederate soldiers and demeaning Black Americans—on display in the township’s “Garden of Honor” located in the community park. Over the course of last summer and fall, several large protests and counter-protests were held. Groups supporting the racist statues included heavily armed militia and white nationalists flying Confederate flags. (See attached photos.)

Allendale officials filed five separate criminal complaints following two peaceful free-speech demonstrations opposing the township’s offensive and historically inaccurate depiction of a Confederate soldier, a Union soldier, and an enslaved Black child, on the ground, wearing a cotton-picking sack, at the feet of his White oppressors.

“As parents of a biracial child, the township’s depiction of an enslaved biracial child in our community park is offensive and intolerable. For our family, those statues represent the historical enslavement, murder, rape, and oppression of Black Indigenous People of Color by White Supremacists and the overt and unrestrained racism that continues to this day in Allendale, Michigan,” the Millers said.

The first demonstration allegedly took place on the afternoon of Monday, January 4th, when the Millers allegedly placed a white pillowcase over the head of the Confederate soldier, with the words “Traitor,” “Slaveholder, “Murderer,” and others describing Confederate soldiers, were written on the pillowcase. Fresh flowers and candles were left out of respect for the enslaved Black child (and all people of color affected by the system of oppression the White soldiers represent). A clown face was allegedly painted on the Union soldier using washable Crayola paint to emphasize the historical complicity of all colonizers. (See attached photos.)

The second demonstration (lasting fewer than 8 minutes) took place at 6 p.m. on Friday, January 8th, when Kahle, Huber, and Miller (Griffin) allegedly reenacted a “tar and feathering” of the Confederate soldier, using a water-and-cornstarch mixture and white goose feathers. A small cardboard placard with the word “Traitor” was allegedly placed on the Confederate soldier and flowers left in respect for the enslaved child. (See attached photos.)

When presented with the alleged details, including eye-witness statements, photos and video of the demonstrations, Ottawa County Prosecutor Lee Fisher declined to bring charges, saying, “…although both actions resulted in a clean-up, neither caused lasting damage to the statue … the makeup and feathers were washed off without permanent damage.”

This was by design. Activists tested their water-based paint and “tar” mixtures in advance to ensure everything would wash away in the rain or with a hose. The fresh flowers and natural feathers left no lasting mark, waste, or damage whatsoever. In fact, these same four activists were responsible, with others, for numerous other similar free-speech demonstrations throughout the summer and fall of 2020. Including twice chalking and painting “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and “TAKE IT DOWN” in large letters on the township’s parking lot. (See attached photos.)

“Township officials’ decision to prosecute is politically motivated and violates activists’ rights to free speech and assembly under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The charges are designed purely to intimidate and chill activists’ speech. The statues in this case represent government speech in a public park, where citizens enjoy the greatest of all free-speech protections,” Attorney Jeffery S. Crampton said.

These acts were not vandalism, but acts of love and free speech. The substances were not litter, they were all-natural mediums of artistic expression. There was no violation of township ordinances, activists were lawfully in the park only during official hours of operation.

Make no mistake. Racism is on display in Allendale—in the form of a racist statue, as well as the actions by Allendale officials to perpetuate systemic racism. If Allendale Township proceeds with its attempt to silence and infringe the constitutional rights of the defendants, not only will racism be on display in Allendale, racism will go on trial at the expense of the community’s finances and reputation.

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