Skip to content

GRIID Year in Review Part V – Documenting the work of Social Movements in Grand Rapids

January 2, 2023

In Part I of our Year in Review for 2022, we looked at how the local news media (mis)reported on critical issues in Grand Rapids. In Part II, we looked back at what the Far Right in West Michigan was doing over the past year. With Part III, we looked back at the activity of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, how they expanded their wealth, how they influenced electoral outcome and how they colluded with local government. In Part IV, we looked back at the most reported issue in Grand Rapids for 2022, the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya. In today’s post, Part V, we want to look back at our documentation of social movements in Grand Rapids.

Some social movements continued to do the important work of fighting for justice and collective liberation. However, 2022 was an election year, so social movement work always struggles, since too many people divert money and time to voting. There were movements that have been around for several years, such as the immigrant justice movement, which is best reflected in the work of Movimiento Cosecha, the housing justice movement, lots of Mutual Aid work, the Defund the GRPD effort and the Justice4Patrick movement, which was born out of the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya on April 4, 2022.

Immigrant Justice

Movimiento Cosecha continued to organize around Driver’s Licenses for All, in Grand Rapids and across the state. The undocumented immigrant movements continued to do education around the importance of driver’s licenses, along with building capacity for the campaign, which meant working with immigrants and allies across the state. Much of this organizing is through meetings, zoom calls and preparation for actions, which most of us never see.

In late April of 2022, we wrote about how Movimiento Cosecha has been organizing May Day actions for the previous 5 years, with an invitation to participate in the 2022 May Day action. One thing that happened this past May, was that they were finally able to shut down US 131 for nearly 30 minutes, backing up traffic, getting commercial news media coverage and documenting the action on social media, always with the theme, “We will stop disrupting your lives when you stop disrupting our lives.”

Another major action was a 3 day encampment in Lansing, where Movimiento Cosecha continued to pressure lawmakers to hold a public hearing on Driver’s Licenses, then get it passed, so that undocumented immigrants can go to work and raise their families in safety, without fear that being stopped by local police will result in them being detained or deported. We participated in the first two days of the encampment, waiting about Day 1 and Day 2. Lastly, Movimiento Cosecha organized an action at the home of the GOP speaker of the House, Rep. Wentworth, who had cancelled the public hearing on Driver’s Licenses back in 2021, which put the lives of undocumented immigrants at risk by delaying a public hearing, which will likely not be held until sometime in 2023.

Union organizing

Labor organizing across the US surged in 2022, at places like Amazon and Starbucks. Grand Rapids Starbuck workers began an organizing campaign in late Spring of 2022, which we wrote about, also noting that Starbucks workers had attempted to organized way back in 2008/2009. 

The Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union also continued to provide support for tenants, which often translated into being involved in pressure campaigns against landlords and property management companies, which we wrote about in September. Towards the end of the year, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce proposed an ordinance that would essentially criminalize the unhoused. The GR Tenant Union, along with a coalition of groups and individuals, rallied to take action, first at the GR Chamber’s headquarters in downtown Grand Rapids and again at Mel Trotter Ministries, which has publicly supported the Chamber’s proposed ordinance. This campaign has also called for a boycott of businesses in the downtown area, which often includes business in other parts of the city, since several of the downtown business own multiple entities across the city. For ways to become involved in the boycott campaign, go to the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union FB page.

Justice4Patrick Movement

The other major social movement that was active also included a coalition of groups, such as Defund the GRPD, Together We Are Safe, the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network, GR Rapid Response to ICE and people who were previously affiliated with Justice for Black Lives. This coalition was the result of the GRPD murdering Patrick Lyoya, a Black Congolese man, on April 4th in Grand Rapids. 

A few days after Lyoya was murdered by the GRPD, we wrote about the numerous ways that people could support Patrick’s family and take action to demand justice.

There were marches that were organized starting from the site where Patrick was murdered, but most of the marches were in downtown Grand Rapids and many of those marches ended up at City Hall, where the community could pressure City officials to meet their demands. Many of the City Commission meetings saw dozens of people speaking during the public comments period, often demonstrating anger at what had happened and how the City was not taking this murder seriously. The public was so angered that they often used what City officials referred to as “profanity,” plus they chanted and shouted during meetings, often resulting in City officials shutting down the meeting.

In addition, as was the case in the previous two years, certain activists were targeted by the GRPD, often being arrested as they were leaving the building and going to their cars or at times after they had left in cars and were pulled over by the GRPD, then arrested. The GRPD, with City official approval, repeatedly took this kind of action, no doubt as an attempt to instill fear in those who were speaking out about the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya. 

In late May, there were actions taken at the homes of several Grand Rapids City officials, which involved primarily graffiti. The local news media demonstrated once again a very clear bias in support of local government, completely misrepresenting grassroots organizing.

In June, the Kent County Prosecutor finally charged, Christopher Schurr, the ex-GRPD cop who shot Patrick Lyoya in the back of the head, with second degree murder. GRIID wrote a piece documenting how those in power responded to the charges.

As is always the case with the judicial process, there were delays involved in moving forward against Christopher Schurr, with one court hearing in September and another one in October, where activists were present to monitor the case, along with holding protests outside. The trial for the ex-cop who killed Patrick Lyoya is expected to begin in March of 2023. 

There were certainly other forms of important organizing being done, mostly behind the scenes, but the above movements were the most active in 2022. 

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: