Tense and controversial moments at anti-violence rally in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- An energized crowd converged onto Rosa Parks Circle as people joined in unity and discussed the dangers of racism in America.

While it was peaceful, there were controversial moments and tension.

Some people took aim at the wealthy and another hung an American flag upside down and began reciting the socialist anthem. It was also about the time, a few self proclaimed anti-government patriots showed up, openly carrying guns and were asked to leave.

“Please leave now, go. Please leave now, go. Please leave now, go.”

The crowd shouted at the Three Percenters, an American Patriot Movement during the  the anti-violence rally in downtown Grand Rapids.

It comes one day a woman was killed after a driver plowed into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday. Two State Troopers were also killed while their helicopter crashed near Charlottesville. The pair had been assisting with public safety resources during those clashes.

"We are an all lives matter organization," said Christopher Gargus, with the Three Percenters. "We care about everybody."

Those with the Three Percenters say they care about the people who attended the rally downtown, as well as protecting free speech.

“Well freedom of speech is freedom of speech," said Gargus. "People have the right to say what they want. Now people receive it differently, and it’s their choice how they receive it. Whether they are offended by it and what action they want to take afterwards.”

When the socialist anthem was played the American flag was displayed upside down.

Many people reported they were upset that the rally diverted away from its intended goal.

“I believe that there is a time and a place for things like that, " said Ryan Jeanette. "If it took away from the momentum then of course it would have been a bad thing.”

However, one person who spoke to FOX 17 defended the group's right to speak out at the rally.

“I know the whole idea of it was not to hijack that portion of it. The whole idea was for the unity of the rally." said Tyjuan Thirdgill, of Progressive Democrats of America.

"So, it’s them taking their white privilege and their platform and speaking to people who share the same views as them and as it relates to socialism," continued Thirdgill."  "In my opinion, that was an appropriate thing, because it allows people who relate with socialism to know that their group is supporting this and maybe I should too.”

Demonstrators said the most important thing was that their thoughts were discussed and their voices were heard.

The crowd eventually marched to Ah-Nab-Awan Park for a vigil.

"I think it was very important that people come together in West Michigan about what happened in Charlottesville because what negatively impacts one part of our nation ultimately us as a whole," said Dain Gates, of Grand Rapids United Progressive.

"I never reject your right to protest. I can object disagree with what you are protesting, but I would never advocate for anyone taking away your freedom of speech.”

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4 comments

  • steve

    The intent of the rally might have had some merit, but as always, there were individuals that used the event as a “look at me” opportunity. Those people are incapable of normal thinking and their actions in recent years have detracted from the value, whatever that might be, of the demonstration and lead to indifference by many members of the public.

  • Pádraig Armano

    I’m the one who sang the Internationale. This was not done as a political grab. It was immediately following a moment of silence for our Comrade Heather Heyer, who was the fatality in Charlottesville. Heather Heyer was a Socialist (IWW). We chose to do this as a sign of respect. Before the moment of silence, a candle with her name on it was lit, and I called up all the people from the audience who had flags of repressed peoples. The Mexican flag, Palestinian flag, African American flag, and Native Power Flag joined the Red and Black flags on stage. These flags were lowered in a salute in honour of Heather during the moment of silence, which was broken with the Internationale. This was about honouring someone, not political messaging. We were honouring our Comrade who died standing up against hate.

  • Jessie

    Yawn…
    Some of us have to go to work on Monday.
    You go ahead with your protest of whatever, well until your mom calls that dinner is ready.