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20 years ago there was a movement in Grand Rapids to oppose the US war and occupation of Iraq: Part V – Anti-War activists and GRPD makes plan for the beginning of the war

March 15, 2023

In Part I of our series looking back at the 20th anniversary of the public resistance to the US invasion/occupation of Iraq in 2003, we focused on early organizing efforts to build an anti-war movement before the US war on Iraq even began. In Part II, we looked at the protest when President’s Bush’s visited Grand Rapids the day after his State of the Union address and the GRPD’s response during that protest.

In Part III, we looked at the Women in Black actions, the global protest against the war march that took place in Lansing, along with the People’s Alliance for Justice & Change workshops on civil disobedience that were offered to a growing number of people who wanted to do more than just hold signs.  Part IV focused on student organizing against the imminent US war against Iraq, along with civil disobedience that was done at Rep. Ehlers office before the war began.

In today’s post, we will look back on some of the plans that anti-war organizers had put in place once the US invasion/occupation of Iraq began. In addition, we will look at the increased surveillance of the GRPD on anti-war organizers and activities prior to the March 20th US bombing campaign against Iraq.

For the week prior to the beginning of the US war/occupation of Iraq, the group People’s Alliance for Justice & Change had been circulating a flyer that announced plans for several different actions to take place the day of and a few days after the war began. You can see a copy of the flyer here on the right, which was also included in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding what the GRPD was doing to monitor, disrupt and target anti-war activities. 

There was also an article in the Grand Rapids Press, entitled, With War looming, GR police prepare for more protests. (See page 16 of the hyperlinked document) Then police chief Harry Dolan made it clear in the Press article that they would be prepared to deal with protestors, including violent protests, which is always code for protests that don’t play by the rules – like civil disobedience, office occupations, blocking traffic, disrupting business as usual. The Press article also mentions that the GRPD was doing additional training and even listed the gear they would have, riot gear, pepper spray, and shield. Dolan also said they were prepared for “mass arrests.”

There was an ACLU lawyer, Pete Walsh who is cited in the article, but the rest of the sources cited were the City Manager, the Mayor and a City Commissioner, all of which were critical of anti-war protesters, some calling them violent for blockading traffic. 

There was also an interesting FOIA document from the GRPD, which included plans to have police vans available, cops assigned to the County building, along with what GVSU security people were planning in case students protested, which you can see here below.

On Monday, we will post Part VI, since March 20th is the actual day that the US war against Iraq began, where we will talk about the anti-war actions on the first few days, plus the ongoing attempts by the GRPD to infiltrate and monitor anti-war organizers.

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