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Justice For Black Lives Press Conference and the failure of local news agencies holding systems of power accountable

November 22, 2021

Earlier today, on Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids, Justice For Black Lives held a Press Conference to address the actions of the GRPD during their Saturday evening protest in response to the Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty verdict.

Several people spoke, including three of those that were either arrested or detained by the GRPD. In some cases, the GRPD stopped people with guns drawn on those that were protesting. Even those who were just detained, they were forced to get out of their car, at gunpoint, and then handcuffed before being released.

You can watch the entire Press Conference, which WXMI 17 recorded, at this link. There were two TV stations and one radio station present for the Press Conference. When it came time for Q & A, only the WXMI 17 reporter asked questions. You can’t hear him in the video very well, but the first question was, “It seems that you are all having to not only protest the issues you are confronting, but protesting the right to protest. Do you find this frustrating?”

The second question also centered on Justice For Black Lives, asking, “Where do you go from here? What will you do next?” 

In both cases Justice For Black Lives graciously responded to the media questions. It is unfortunate that the WXMI 17 reporter, or the other two reporters, failed to ask questions about the GRPD, about the failure of Grand Rapids City Officials to respond or act on their demands, or the larger systemic problems related to how activists and organizers are met with repression in this city, especially those that do not engage in performative activism. 

The news media would do well to explore these questions, which essentially means that they would have to confront systems of power in this city, something that they rarely have done in the 40 years that I have been involved in media accountability work. Let’s see if the local commercial news outlets will follow up with the GRPD, not to just get their take on the latest attempts to repress members of JFBL, but actually confront them on their tactics and their use of state violence against people demanding police accountability and police defunding. My guess is that they will chose to not confront systems of power, either the GRPD or Grand Rapids City Officials.

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