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At least two campaigns now exist to oppose the Grand Rapids petition to amend the City Charter to redirect some City funds away from policing and towards community needs

July 20, 2022

In June, the Coalition for Community Owned Safety began collecting signatures on a petition they are circulating that would, amend the Grand Rapids City Charter to replace certain mandatory budget appropriations in subsection (f) and, instead, require the City to appropriate no less than 9.8% of the General Operating Fund for affordable housing, mental and physical health, environmental sustainability, police accountability, and economic growth of communities with disproportionately high gun violence, unemployment, and child poverty. For the complete language of the petition campaign, go to this link.

This campaign to change the Grand Rapids City Charter would change the language from the 1995 campaign which institutionalized a minimum of 32% of the City’s budget to go to the GRPD. That campaign was utilizing the fear mongering campaign that was passed in 1994 at the federal level, known as the Crime Bill, which also institutionalized more funding for policing, even though violent crime was in decline.

Ever since the May 31st, 2020 Uprising in Grand Rapids, there have been calls to Defund the GRPD. In July of 2020, some City Commissioners proposed to reduce the GRPD funding to the 32% minimum per the 1995 City Charter change, but the City Manager and City Attorney stepped in to prevent such a vote from happening. This call continue, but was escalated after the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya in April of 2022. 

The Coalition for Community Owned Safety, which involves the ACLU of Michigan, Urban Core Collective, NAACP of Greater Grand Rapids, and LINC UP. Shortly after they began their campaign to collective signatures to amend the City Charter, there have been at least two organized efforts that we know of to oppose thing campaign.

The first organized campaign was started in February of 2022, called People living on the westside of Grand Rapids were receiving political mailers calling on people to oppose the petition campaign to amend the City Charter. The campaign has very little information on their webpage. There is a contact page, a PO Box listing and this brief text: 

Our great city is home to a diverse group of people. We come from all walks of life, economic backgrounds, and places all over the world. We deserve a city and neighborhoods that are safe, welcoming, and prosperous.

I have not been able to find out any information about this group, after looking through numerous channels and I did send them a message asking for more information, but received no response.

The other organized effort to oppose the petition campaign by the Coalition for Community Owned Safety, is purely an online effort I have seen on Facebook for the past several weeks by the group known as Mighty Michigan. According to the group’s website it states:

Mighty Michigan is dedicated to building a freer, more prosperous Michigan. As you know, entrenched politicians and special interests have controlled Michigan’s government for too long – and we’re working to change that.

The same page says, “Mighty Michigan is sponsored by the nonprofit American Culture Project, a national leader in research and civic engagement in the Midwest and throughout the country.” The American Culture Project comes off as a non-partisan, non-profit groups that claims to empathize with regular people. They also have campaign in Florida, Ohio and Michigan.

However, according to SourceWatch:

“The American Culture Project (ACP) is a 501(c)(4) right-wing nonprofit officially registered as the Americans for Government Accountability. According to a fundraising proposal obtained by The Washington Post, ACP was created “to address the right’s gap of cultural influence” and plans on “building a permanent, growing community focused infrastructure to take back the commanding heights of culture that determines electoral outcomes.”

In addition, according to an article in the Anchorage Daily News:

Undisclosed on the Facebook page is the nonprofit’s partisan goal. Arise Ohio and similar sites aimed at other politically pivotal states are part of a novel strategy by a little-known Republican-aligned group to make today’s GOP more palatable to moderate voters before the 2022 midterms by reshaping the “cultural narrative” on hot-button issues. That goal, laid out in a private fundraising appeal sent last month to a Republican donor and reviewed by The Washington Post, relies on building new online communities that can be tapped at election time, with a focus on winning back Congress in 2022.

In regards to Mighty Michigan/American Cultural Project opposition to the Grand Rapids petition campaign to amend the City Charter, they say:

The proposal uses a sleight of hand to avoid spelling out its goal of defunding the police. This is because the new 9.8% spending requirement on other priorities leaves no alternative but to slash law enforcement spending. Simply put, if this ballot proposal were to pass, it would mean a reduced public safety presence in Grand Rapids neighborhoods.

This campaign seeks to use the language of Defunding the Police as a fear tactic, just like the GOP and the Democratic Parties have been doing since this became a rallying cry from the Movement for Black Lives, which has an excellent toolkit on how to do a Defund the Police campaign in your community.

The Facebook ads from Mighty Michigan not only urges people to oppose the Coalition for Community Owned Safety petition drive, they invite people to send messages to Grand Rapids City Officials, with their own petition campaign, as you can see here on the right. This petition can be signed by anyone no matter where they live, but it also has no legal weight, unlike the petition campaign to Amend the Grand Rapids City Charter that the Coalition for Community Owned Safety is circulating. In fact, the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association, which is the GRPD union, linked the Mighty Michigan campaign on their Facebook page on July 17, along with limiting who could comment on the post, which seems to be a relatively new tactic on their part.

At GRIID, we highly encourage people to sign to Coalition for Community Owned Safety petition, which you can access from the coalition groups – CLU of Michigan, Urban Core Collective, NAACP of Greater Grand Rapids, and LINC UP. You can also help circulate the petition by getting copies at any of the offices of the coalition groups. 

We also think it is important to be aware of and understand that there are at least two organized efforts to oppose this grassroots effort. As with any organized opposition, we must always ask ourselves, what is it that they find so threatening about the Coalition for Community Owned Safety petition and what is motivating their opposition. Based on the Mighty Michigan/American Cultural Project, their motivation is both political and partisan, plus their tactic is to use fear and misinformation. 

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