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GRIID End of the Year in Review: Part IV – Documenting Social Movements in Grand Rapids

December 22, 2021

In Part I of the GRIID End of the Year Review, we looked at all the commercial news stories that we deconstructed in 2021, and in Part II, we look back at our coverage of what the Far Right in West Michigan was up to over the past year. In Part III, we examined what we identify as the Grand Rapids Power Structure. In today’s post we are sharing our coverage of the work of social movements in Grand Rapids during 2021.

Historical Movements in Grand Rapids

There were four posts about previous social movements in Grand Rapids, which are always important to remember and to learn from. On January 6th, we wrote an article for the 30th anniversary of the anti-war movement in Grand Rapids that was resisting what was called the US War in the Gulf.

A second historical social movement in Grand Rapids that we wrote about was a more recent movement, the movement to End the Contract with ICE in Kent County. We wrote this piece, not only to document that movement, but to respond to local politicians who wanted to claim that they had ended the contract.

A third historical movement we documented was the Anti-Nuclear Movement, which existed in Grand Rapids from the late 1970s through the mid-1990s. One last historical movement we wrote about was for the 10th anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, which also existed in Grand Rapids.

Current Social Movements in Grand Rapids

The first social movement we wrote about was a movement that is doing Mutual Aid work, known as the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network (GRAMAN). GRAMAN began at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, since there have been thousands of individuals and families in Grand Rapids that have been deeply affected by the virus. GRAMAN is an autonomous group that raises funds for those most affected during the pandemic, the BIPOC communities. GRIID conducted an interview with them in mid-February.

Another social movement that has been active since 2020, is a movement to remove a confederate statue in Allendale. The Allendale Township has refused to remove the statue, despite ongoing resistance. In 2021, that resistance took the form of charges against activists for altering the statue, a boycott of a summer concert series organized by the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists, and a lawsuit by activists who have been trying to get the Confederate statue removed from Allendale, The lawsuit is about free speech or the lack thereof in Allendale.

Formed in 2017, the immigrant-led movement known as Movimiento Cosecha GR, which has been fighting for immigrant justice, continued to organize in 2021. Shifting from previous May Day actions they have done in Grand Rapids, the movement went to Washington, DC in 2021 to make their demands known to the Biden Administration.  In addition, Movimiento Cosecha GR, along with other Cosecha groups in the state, continued to organize to win driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in Michigan. They organized actions in communities all across the state, then hosted a larger action at the Lansing State Capitol to pressure state officials at a public hearing. At the last minute, state officials canceled the public hearing on driver’s licenses, most likely to prevent Movimiento Cosecha from having a say at the hearing.

The last movement we documented in 2021, was the movement to confront the GRPD, which also involved an effort to Defund the GRPD. The two primary entities involved in this work was Defund the GRPD and Justice for Black Lives (JFBL). 

In early March, 8 JFBL activists were arrested during a march they organized that coincided with the trial against the cop that murdered George Floyd. JFBL organized a Press Conference the following day, which we attended and video taped.

In April, JFBL organized another protest march, this time for Daunte Wright, another Black man who was killed while in police custody. Three days later, the City of Grand Rapids released a statement that essentially threatened people who would be protesting the outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial.

In May, the group Defund the GRPD was organizing to pressure the City of Grand Rapids to not only reduce funding for the GRPD, but to allow more public input on how public money would be used in the City Budget for 2022. In early May, the City held a one hour virtual town hall meeting on the 2022 Budget, which was an insult to those who have been organizing around how public money would be used.  Defund the GRPD had posted their own demands on what they wanted to see happen with the funds, as well as the process for determining the 2022 City Budget. Defund the GRPD also organized people to call in during the City Commission meeting later in May, right before they voted on the 2022 Budget.

In July, the GRPD arrested another JFBL organizer for using a megaphone during a peaceful protest in downtown Grand Rapids.  It was at this time that the City began allowing in person meetings for the City Commission, where JFBL activists have spoken at for the past several months.

In November, at a protest following a not guilty verdict for Kyle Rittenhouse, several JFBL activists were arrested again, after the protest had finished. Once again, JFBL held a press conference to respond to the arrests and to counter the claims made by the GRPD.

There were certainly other actions organized in Grand Rapids during 2021, but the ones we documented were from movements that have been able to sustain their resistance throughout the year. It is our belief that these movements, and others like them, are critical for any lasting or systemic change to occur. GRIID has been proud to document these movements.

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