On Saturday, about 40 people gathered at the Calder Plaza for an anti-immigration rally, under the guise that they opposed what they termed as “illegal immigrants.” Local people who felt it necessary to take a public stand, particularly with the Latino community, met the rally with their own signs, drums and statement that “we are all immigrants.” The two groups quickly began exchanging views and chants. After a few minutes the Grand Rapids Police showed up and told the crowd that since no one had a permit it was not legal for them to be at the Calder unless they were moving. At that point about half the anti-immigration crowd began to march around downtown, the whole time being followed by people who kept calling out the racist position of the group. Eventually everyone made their way back to the Calder Plaza where few people remained and smaller conversations sprang up before people left the area.
There was some media attention at the event. Fox 17 and WZZM 13 both had reporters there before the counter-protestors showed up. The WZZM 13 story only had comments from the anti-immigrant group and the Grand Rapids Press framed the story at the very beginning as “A demonstration against illegal immigration turned noisy when drum-banging counter-protesters turned the event into a shout-fest.” The Press story also gave substantially more space to the anti-immigrant perspective and put the only pro-immigration perspective at the very end of the article. The editor of El Hispano was also present, but since it is a weekly publication, there is no way of knowing now what will be printed. This writer did speak with the editor of El Hispano who thought that “confronting the anti-immigrant protesters only brings attention to them.” It was pointed out that these people needed to know that many object to their position and that the commercial news media was already giving them attention whether there was a confrontation or not. In many ways what was learned about who this group was and what their agenda is proved to be very useful. The commercial media has attempted to just present this as two opposing views engaging in their first amendment rights, but much more can be said about who was behind the anti-immigration rally.
It was quickly discovered that some of the anti-immigration rally were affiliated with Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR is one of the most visible anti-immigration groups in the US. It’s founder John Tanton, lives in Michigan, and is a former president of the group Zero Population Growth. One man was handing out a publication called Citizens Informer, the national publication of the Council of Conservative Citizens. The group also carried a banner with the same name. What the CCC really believes is that the US is a Christian country and that “the United States is a European country and that Americans are part of the European people.” Their organizational manifest says “we oppose the massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples into the United States that threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority in our lifetime (source).” An essay by the CCC’s founder Robert Patterson calls for the repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The publication also has a states update section and mentions the importance of passing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), if passed would eliminate affirmative action programs in the state government and at the university level. The Michigan Chair of the CCC is John Raterink and the mailing address for the local branch is P.O. Box 224, Caledonia, MI. 49316.
Another group associated with the Council of Conservative Citizens are American Renaissance, a group that warns “If massive non-white immigration continues, and welfare keeps encouraging high birth rates among blacks and Hispanics, whites will become a minority in the US.” Also promoted at the anti-immigration rally was the Save Our State group which “is committed to creating a New Paradigm, one that consists of one singular tenet: the transference of pain. Our enemies in the open borders lobby are not going to change their policies or behavior unless we make it painful for them to continue propagating their anti-American agenda.” They also have chapters around the country and are committed to closing the US borders. There were comments about people losing jobs to “illegal immigrants” and that some UAW members were at the rally, but it was clear that this was not just a group of people concerned about the legality of immigrants. With the representation of at least three national organizations, all of which promote White Supremacy and White Purity, this anti-immigration rally was not just organized by disgruntled citizens.