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The Community showed up and said No to White Supremacy and the Proud Boys!

July 11, 2021

Yesterday, people showed up to do exactly what we needed to do, which was to send a strong message to the Proud Boys that they are never welcome in this community. 

About 150 people came to Ah Nab Awen Park in downtown Grand Rapids, from several different groups, to make sure that the Proud Boys rally that was scheduled for noon on Saturday did not happen.

People started arriving around 10am to the park. Around noon there were a few Proud Boys who walked through the park, but after seeing the large numbers of those who came to resist their White Supremacist gathering, they left.

It was a clear victory over hate, thus demonstrating once again, that groups like the Proud Boys, the Klan, neo-Nazis, the militia, etc., should never be tolerated. 

Around 1:30 a few people spoke to the people who had been in the park for over 3 hours. Joe Cadreau, a Indigenous activist, who talked about the importance of the sacred space that is Ah Nab Awen Park, said it best, “I was not going to allow neo-Nazi fascist and neo-Nazi white supremacists come in and walk across my sacred ancestors. We kicked their ass today.”

The GRPD also had a significant presence during the counter-protest. There were cops stationed on the tops of buildings, in police cruisers, in unmarked cars and about 20 cops in tactical gear riding bikes. The bike cops kept riding around the perimeter of the park and occasionally riding through the park, just to let those of us who were resisting that they were there.

At one point a few cops walked up to some of us and did the usual, “who’s in charge?” Because, in their world, someone has to be in charge. They will never understand the idea of horizontal organizing, where people come together and make decisions collectively. Several people just ended up telling the cops to leave or to fuck off, because they had nothing to say to them and were pissed off at the GRPD for releasing a statement saying that they would “protect” the Proud Boys’ right to free speech. 

There were also several local commercial news agencies present, many of which showed up at 10am. The local news media no doubt was hoping for a confrontation, since they love conflict porn, which always gets lots of hits and is great for advertising. The stories that we done were the standard narrative.

WOODTV8 ran a very short story with a headline that read, Dozens of counter protestors gather in GR for rumored Proud Boys rally. The channel 8 reporter interviewed someone who had nothing to do with organizing the resistance and was critical of both the Proud Boys and those who gathered to oppose them.

The MLive article was longer, but also didn’t provide adequate context and follow standard narratives. They also included interviews with several people who were not part of the organized resistance, people who had their own agenda and analysis that had nothing to do with why most people were there. In addition, many of the pictures that were included with the MLive article also centered on some of the religious people who came to the counter-protest to impose their values on the rest of us.

The WXMI story was a bit better, since it centered the voices a two of the organizers of the action, but they also gave time to people who were sympathetic to the Proud Boys or made ridiculous comments about the US not being founded on racism.

In addition, WXMI 17 had run a story a few days earlier about the Proud Boys planned rally and the response from Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack, who told people they should just ignore the Proud Boys. This message of non-engagement or ignoring hate groups is absolutely the wrong kind of message to send and it only reinforces this idea that even groups like the Proud Boys have a right to spread their vile whenever they want.

Lastly, some of the news stories used language like, “there was no violence during the counter-protest.” This is a simplistic and naive notion of violence. When the Proud Boys announced they were coming to Grand Rapids, that was a form of violence. The GRPD showing up in large numbers, to do surveillance and to monitor those who came to say that the Proud Boys are not welcomed, that was a form of violence. When the GRPD sends dozens of cops in tactical gear, that is straight up a demonstration of state violence. 

However, despite the various news media narratives and the GRPD’s bullshit, it was great to see people come together to defend themselves against White Supremacy and to make it clear that the best way to stand against hate is to show up and confront them!

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