Approximately 75 people gathered in downtown Grand Rapids to call for an end to the United States’ occupation of Iraq on the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The rally, organized by the West Michigan Justice and Peace Coalition (WMJPC), featured speeches from two members of the WMJPC (one of whom is running for the school board) and a member of Confronting Empire. After the brief rally, a marching band organized by Confronting Empire led a march through downtown Grand Rapids. The “Radical Anti-Imperialist Marching Band” consisted of around twenty-five people playing a variety of percussion instruments and a saxophone while others twirled anarchist flags. The march was led by a large banner reading “US Out of Iraq” and flanked by banners reading “Stop US Imperialism” and “Capitalism Kills.” At several points the march was able to take the streets blocking key intersections in downtown without drawing any attention from the police. Moreover, when the march stopped outside the DeVos Place and stole the attention of many attending the Sporting Expo. Unlike many previous marches in which energy has been low and reactions from passer-bys hostile, the energy on the march was high and the group generally received positive reactions from pedestrians, even when marching in the street.
Following the rally and march, members of the Confronting Empire group took their march to the suburbs, staging a parade in the busy Woodland mall in Kentwood. The marching band took the entire mall by surprise as befuddled shoppers stopped and stared as the group chanted “Stop the War, Consume no More” while playing instruments, twirling flags, and holding banners that read “US Out of Iraq” and “Capitalism Kills.” The action at Woodland mall was quite successful with the brief march reaching many more people than the downtown rally and march. Most of the shoppers in the mall watched the group and read the banners and a few store employees were seen dancing as the group past by their stores. After the success at Woodland mall the group made an attempt to enter nearby Centerpointe mall but was turned back by aggressive security officers who shoved members of the group and confiscated some drumsticks, many of which were taken back by other members of the band. The events at the two malls were organized partially in response to last year’s rally, which despite drawing over 200 people, was seen by very few people. Downtown Grand Rapids tends to be very empty on weekend afternoons, and as such, it makes sense for organizers to think of areas outside downtown where they can both be seen by other people.