Between 1 – 2,000 people from all over Michigan came to Grand Rapids on Wednesday, January 29 to send a strong no-war message to Bush. People from all walks of life, young, old, student, business owners, clergy, environmentalists, workers, educators and parents came to greet Bush as he spoke at Spectrum hospital and to a GOP crowd in DeVos Hall.
Security was tight and law enforcement kept those demonstrating behind police line on both Michigan St. and Monroe Ave. After Bush’s motorcade passed over 500 demonstrators on Michigan the police allowed them to walk down to DeVos Hall. When people got to Lyon Street a police car jumped the sidewalk and prevented people from walking down to Monroe. The crowd was told that there was a “designated” protest area on Monroe, but that they had to go back to Michigan and enter Monroe north of DeVos Hall. This created tensions, especially since Bush supporters were walking about freely on Lyon and Monroe, even those carrying signs.
The crowd eventually turned around and went to Monroe Ave. on the north end of DeVos Hall. At about 1:30 a smaller crowd left Monroe and began marching around downtown GR, some in the streets. Witnesses say that the Police arrested 10 people, some while walking on the sidewalk. This then became the news – that a few people were arrested.
We taped and logged the news from Fox 17 (10pm), WZZM 13 (5:30, 6 & 11pm) and WOOD TV 8 (5:30, 6 & 11pm). We also logged the GR Press coverage. What follows is a summary of each of these news outlets and actions we are encouraging people to take.
FOX 17 – 10pm – They began their newscast with Bush’s speech, comments from Bush supporters. Next feedback on his visit to Spectrum Hospital and then a short interview with a woman who was at the airport and in awe from seeing Airforce One. About 6 minutes into the newscast we finally hear about the 1,000 plus who were demonstrating against a possible war with Iraq. Fox newscasters said “hundreds,” showed video footage of small groups of people and then short comments from 3 opposed to war (an older woman & man and a young woman). Next they reported that people were arrested, some for attempting to overturn a vehicle. GR Police chief Dolan then spoke briefly about the arrests. The very next story was about a Creston High teacher who was called up by the Army Reserves.
WZZM 13 – 5:30pm – They began with a summary of Bush’s visit where Lee Van Ameyde said “police had to struggle to keep protestors in line.” Kim Covington was standing in front of Spectrum Hospital covering the health care message and said, “a photographer and I ran into about 100 angry war protestors who tried to get closer to the president. It wasn’t a pretty scene.” Next they mentioned that there were arrests with GR Police Chief Dolan saying, “these were very orderly protests today.” Comments from three anti-war folks were aired (young man, young woman and a female student). Then they showed footage of where the police had blocked off Lyon St., with a shot of a man yelling at the police. They also mentioned that a woman who was protesting passed out on Ottawa. Back to Kim Covington who began here health care piece by saying “before the president saw some of the angry protestors…” Then it was on to Peter Ross who was at the airport beaming with delight about the president’s visit. Lastly, an update about the arrests, no footage, but they listed the charges.
WZZM 13 – 6pm – Newscast begins with the president’s visit with Lee Van Ameyde saying, “there were protest today with several arrests.” The story began saying that “more than 500” protestors were there to send a message to president Bush, followed by a short interview with a man in his 30’s. Next was more on the arrests, list of charges, emphasizing “failing to obey police,” and that they attempted to overturn a truck. The rest of the newscast had comments from Bush supporters and Peter Ross at the airport saying it was a great day for a visit.
WZZM 13 – 11pm – The newscast began with a story of a murder on the southeast side of GR, then Bush’s visit. First, Bush’s comments on the economy – with studio feedback from an accountant. Next Bush on war – his comments and then the reporter said there “were almost 600 protesting war,” and that “overall the crowd was orderly.” Then they showed video footage of confrontation with the police, mention of arrests and comments from Police Chief Dolan. Next is was Bush on Health Care and finally, we are taken inside the home of a woman who shook Bush’s hand at DeVos Hall who told him that she prays for him every day.
WOOD TV 8 – 5:30pm – Begins with Bush visit, his speech at DeVos Hall, comments from a senior citizen, someone from Spectrum Health and lengthy comments from Rep. Ehlers. Nothing at 5:30 about those with anti-war messages.
WOOD TV 8 – 6pm – Summary of Bush visit with the comment that there were protestors, “some of whom got arrested.” The story began with Bush’s speech at DeVos Hall, comments from supporters, Rep. Hoekstra and Michigan Attorney General Cox. Then they said that between 500-600 protestors were there and that police made some arrests. Police Chief Dolan was interviewed and there was video footage of the police grabbing a young man with a Mohawk and putting him up against the police car. This was the only footage of “protestors.” Next, they interviewed Stabbenow and Ehlers (again) on health care issues. Finally, they also did a story about the Creston teacher who was called up to the Army Reserves.
WOOD TV 8 – 11pm – They began with Bush’s visit and his Iraq message at DeVos Hall. Next, they spoke with a pollster about why Bush came to GR, followed by comments from Hoekstra and Ehlers. Next, the focus was Health Care, with comments from a senior citizen and a Spectrum representative. They then spoke with more senior citizens that live at a senior housing complex, followed by a story at the Auto Show and their response to the hydrogen fueled car concept. Again we hear from Ehlers, a Toyota representative and a GM worker. Lastly, a brief mention about protestors, a 6 second comments from an East GR High student, followed by the newscaster saying there were arrests, with the same footage of the police grabbing the kid with the Mohawk. The newscaster finished by saying “no one was hurt and no property was damaged.”
Grand Rapids Press – Front page adulation for Bush and his supporter, with photo of Bush – also a photo of a few anti-war protestors. Page A-7 headline reads “Peace & Unrest” subtitled “Protestors, police debate facts after 10 are arrested.” The article right away mentions the arrests and the police response, not that 1,000 people came to send Bush a message without incident. Almost halfway through the article is when we find out how many people were there and later it says there was a “mixture” of people. The Press’s notice of mixture was limited. They said nothing about the faith community, professionals, parents, educators and organizers. Never does it say who organized this, nor were the organizers ever spoken to by the Press, despite all the media releases sent out. Several students were interviewed, as were an older man that was anti-war, but the Press also gave significant space to pro-war voices, despite there only being a hand full.
Clearly, much of the reporting was biased and limited. How the demonstration was framed gave wrong impressions, but the biggest problem in all the coverage was the focus on the 10 that were arrested.
We urge people to contact all 4 news outlets and challenge them on their coverage.
Contact Local News Departments:
GR Press – 222-5455 Reporter Ted Roelofs 222-5497 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODTV8 – News Dir. 456-8888 email@example.com
WZZM 13 – News Dir. 559-1315 firstname.lastname@example.org
WXMI FOX 17 – News Dir. 364-1717 email@example.com