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GRIID interviews Movimiento Cosecha before the upcoming May 1st Immigrant Justice march in Grand Rapids

April 25, 2023

On Monday, May 1st, beginning at 4pm, Movimiento Cosecha is inviting people to participate in their annual May Day action in Grand Rapids. 

This year’s action begins at 4pm, with people gathering at Garfield Park on the south side of Grand Rapids. 

Recently, GRIID interviewed Gema Lowe, an organizer with Movimiento Cosecha, asking her questions about the status in the fight for Driver’s Licenses for All in Michigan, how the news media has been reporting on this issue, the decline of ally participation in this movement since the 2020 election and why driver’s licenses is such a critical issue for the undocumented immigrant community. There is also a timeline after our interview, a timeline of the Cosecha organized actions for May Day since they began in 2017. 

Movimiento Cosecha May Day Actions Timeline since 2017

At GRIID, we thought we would take a moment to celebrate the previous actions that have been done for May Day in Grand Rapids, actions which have not only brought out thousands to demand dignity, respect and permanent protection, but actions which have disrupted business as usual, since immigrants know all too well how their lives have been disrupted by US government policy and the ICE enforcement goons. 

May 1st 2017 Action – Movimiento Cosecha started their circle in 2017 and one of the first action they did was to organize a May 1st march from Garfield Park to downtown Grand Rapids. We wrote the following:

Those marching were mostly Latinos, Latinx, and indigenous people from Mexico, Central America and numerous Caribbean nations. Some proudly displayed flags from their country of origin, while other carried signs with demands to stop Separating Families because of the decades-long policy of deporting those without documentation. 

The march organizers did not obtain a permit, since they felt that it was their right to march for what they were demanding. The GRPD was frantic before the march, calling organizers and others connected to the movement, but no one was giving up any information. The GRPD decided to close down roads on their own to clear a path for the march, but the march organizers were clear in that they were providing enough protection for marchers on their own.

May 1st 2018 Action – The 2nd annual May Day march by Movimiento Cosecha, began in the southwest part of the city, at Roosevelt Park, marching down Grandville Avenue and ending up in downtown Grand Rapids. We wrote:

There were other beautiful moments during the march. First, when people didn’t comply with the GRPD route, it clearly showed people that police do not need to be obeyed, based on how animated people got when they changed their route.

Second, when the march was going under the 131 s-curve on Market Street, the echo provided a great opportunity for those marching to get even louder. The marchers stop for a few minutes to revel in their excitement.

Third, the march organizers who were talking through a sound system during the whole march, not only led chants, but provided important information about the realities that immigrant families face on a daily basis. They talked about the constant fear that the community lives in and how people are being detained and deported by ICE agents. Those leading the march also addressed the oppressive role that the GRPD plays in their struggle and made numerous comments at the exact same time that Police Chief Rahinsky was present on Grandville Avenue.

May 1st 2019 Action – The 3rd annual May Day march organized by Movimiento Cosecha GR, began again at Garfield Park. This time the GRPD was threatening to arrest people if they marched in the street. We wrote:

Despite the weather and despite the levels of state violence that the immigrant community has endured, there was no indication that those who were slowly gathering at Garfield Park would be anything but intimidated by the threats of arrest. Movimiento Cosecha GR organizers and volunteers did an amazing job preparing for this march, making connections with people and following the lead of those in the community who have told them over and over again that the ability to obtain a drivers license would be a huge win.

The insurgent hope that grew as we got closer to noon could be felt in the crowd that was gathering, it could be heard in the excitement in people’s voices as they began to chant and urge each other on in this struggle and it could felt in the deep affection and solidarity being exchanged in the embraces people gave each other.

2019 Addendum – Because the GRPD was so bent on arresting people if they marched in the streets, we decide to submit a FOIA request to see what the GRPD was doing prior to the 2019 march.

It should be stated that since Movimiento Cosecha GR and it’s ally group, GR Rapid Response to ICE, began organizing in early 2017, the GRPD has consistently engaged in surveillance, monitoring, harassment and intimidation tactics of this movement. On many occasions, when organizers engaged in specific actions, there were as many, and at times, more police officers present than there were those protesting.

In what follows, you will see that the GRPD spent a great deal of energy, resources and taxpayer money to monitor, harass and threaten a consistently non-violent movement for immigration justice.

The FOIA documents we obtained can be viewed at this link, with 271 pages of e-mail communication, text messages, photos, and other documents related to the 2019 May Day action that Cosecha GR had planned.

On pages 269 – 271, you can see the final cost of the FOIA request, which was $551.01. However, if one goes through the pages, it is clear that 90-95% of the documents were redacted by the GRPD. Here is the explanation they provide on the redaction:

Your request for these records is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Please be advised that information has been redacted from the documents under MCL 15.243(1)(a)(information of a personal nature release of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual’s privacy) and MCL 15.243(1)(b)(iii) (law enforcement records release of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy). It is the City’s position that the public interest in the disclosure of this information is outweighed by the public interest in keeping this information private. The core purpose of the FOIA is to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government. Requests for information that involve private citizens in government files that reveal little to nothing about the inner working of government do not serve the core purpose of the FOIA.

Apparently, the GRPD does not want the public to know what they did, and more importantly, how they operate. So much for transparency.

May 1st 2020 Action – Because we were in the midst of a pandemic, Cosecha organizers decided to do a car caravan and keep people safe. Here is what we wrote about that day:

Movimiento Cosecha GR was once again demanding driver’s licenses for all, but they also emphasized the fact that immigrant workers are essential workers, particularly migrant workers. Migrant workers do the back breaking work in the fields that puts food on all of our tables, work that is so essential, that without them the food system would collapse. Another important point that Movimiento Cosecha GR made yesterday was that the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US are not eligible for any of the COVID-19 relief funds coming from the federal government, thus causing even extra hardship for the immigrant families that are already terrorized by law enforcement.

May 1st 2021 Action – Since there was a Democratic Party controlled Congress and White House, Movimiento Cosecha decided to do their May Day action in Washington, DC. They wanted to make the point that Democrats also Deport us!  We interviewed two of the volunteer organizers just after they got back from their time in Washington, DC. We wrote: 

We sat down with two of the Cosecha GR organizers, Gema and Idalia, both of who went to DC last weekend. We asked them four questions: 1) What was the main focus of going to Washington DC, since during the past 4 May Days, the actions have been local; 2) What kind of actions did you organize and take part in during the two days in Washington, DC; 3) There has been a clear drop in attention and support by the ally community since the November Election, what message do you have for allies about why it is important to continue supporting the immigrant justice movement; and 4) Those who went to DC were very energized, so how do you maintain that kind of energy and how do you get more people involved for the fight ahead?

In May 1st 2022, the Cosecha action involved shutting down the northbound traffic on US 131 for about 20 minutes, along with a march near the same area and community gathering at Clemente Park in the southwest part of Grand Rapids. 

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