Anti-war Activists Hold Rally and Leafleting Action in Grand Rapids

Anti-war activists continue to protest the invasion of Iraq with a rally and leafleting action in Grand Rapids.

After holding protests on Thursday and Friday, activists had another rally in downtown Grand Rapids at Veterans Park.

An estimated one hundred people attended the rally and most of the local media was there to report on the event as well. There were a few different speakers, who provided both analysis of current events and news from Iraq as well as sharing ways for people to get involved–explaining future events and meetings in Grand Rapids.

In continuing their waste of resources (see Grand Rapids: Police Deploy in Force, Monitor Meetings for more on recent police activities), the GRPD assigned many officers to the rally at Veterans Park, who were once again equipped with gas masks. There were an estimated 15 to 20 officers on the sides of the park with numerous unmarked police cars parked on the surrounding streets. The police, who have claimed in previous newscasts that they were the protests to protect anti-war activists from “pro-war” people, refused to intervene even when confrontations between activists and a lone pro-war person got increasingly tense. As has been the case at anti-war protests in Grand Rapids since January, they videotaped everyone in attendance.

After the rally, there was a march to the VanAndel Arena, where activists intended to distribute 1,000 flyers with information on the military actions in Iraq to the people who were at the arena attending the event. The GRPD made sure the march stayed on the sidewalk, and even with officers stopping the march at traffic lights, they still felt the need to drive cars along the side of the march.

Once the march made it the three or so blocks to the VanAndel, activists began distributing flyers, while others went to a WOOD TV 8 truck, the local NBC affiliate in Grand Rapids. After the protest at the Federal Building on Thursday, WOOD TV 8 only reported on the police, reporting the erroneous idea that the police were deployed in force to protect the city from anti-war demonstrators, completely ignoring the fact that protestors, not just police, gathered at the Federal Building. Activists were able to effectively disrupt the news taping, surrounding them with drums, refusing to remove signs from the shot despite the reporter’s “orders,” and chanting loudly. Many activists participating in this action considered the very fact that the WOOD TV reporters’ job was made difficult to be a victory, regardless of whether the footage was used.

As drumming, chanting, and leafleting protestors crowded the public sidewalk at the VanAndel, police and arena employees became increasingly upset and began operating without regard for the law. They setup barricades and refused to let protestors cross them, even though the space was clearly public, while simultaneously contradicting previous statements that demonstrators had the right to be on the sidewalk as long as they did not go up to the doors. The police also closed crosswalks to protestors, claiming that you had to have a ticket to the event to cross. The officers were clearly making up laws; some of them, including badge number 554, pushed people and confiscated banners that were left unattended—while police refused to allow people to file stolen property claims on the banners, stating that you had to know who stole the banner in order file a complaint. Within this context of nearly unbelievable restrictions on the right to assemble, it is not surprising that two activists were arrested for crossing the street.

Overall, the event was a success, as activists effectively demonstrated in the core of downtown where many people were, creating an almost carnival like atmosphere with passing cars honking, drums and chants echoing off the surrounding buildings, and leaflets being distributed to many in attendance.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media //