The Rapidian

Despite pressure from City of Grand Rapids, Cosecha pushes forward with a safe, non-violent, and family-friendly May 1st march for Driver's Licenses for All

GRPD turned over a U.S. citizen to ICE. Now they say immigrants can't peacefully protest in the streets without their approval. Whether we march on the streets or on the sidewalks, we must march to make our voices heard.
Underwriting support from:

A Day Without Immigrants: The Roar for Licenses

  • The march is family-friendly and non-violent
  • The community has a right to peacefully protest
  • Cosecha has over 50 volunteers trained in crowd safety and community care
  • Wednesday, May 1st
  • Don't shop, don't go to work, don't go to school
  • Call your child's school in the morning to get an excused absence from GRPS
  • March starts at 12 pm
  • March starts at Garfield Park
  • Water and snacks provided during the march
  • A meal and program will be provided at the end of the march
  • Learn more on Facebook
Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a citizen, was turned into ICE by GRPD.

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a citizen, was turned into ICE by GRPD. /Courtesy of Richard Kessler

The March for Licenses is at 12 pm at Garfield Park on Wednesday

The March for Licenses is at 12 pm at Garfield Park on Wednesday /Courtesy of Movimiento Cosecha GR

On Monday, April 29, members of Movimiento Cosecha GR met with staff from the Office of Special Events from the City of Grand Rapids. 

Cosecha has multiple concerns that we wanted to address with the city, concerns that we have brought to every City Commission meeting since February of this year.

Yet the staff was only able to discuss the issue of having a permit for our May 1st march for Driver's Licenses for All, citing safety as a key concern. Without a permit, the city says, the police will "remove" the hundreds or thousands in the street, possibly to the sidewalk.

For years, Cosecha has organized marches and events in this city without a permit, as do many other groups in the city, without consequence. That is no different this year, though it seems we are being singled out after our demands and disruptions at the City Commissions meetings. We know that our actions can be disruptive, but every time one of our people are taken away, our community is disrupted, our hearts are broken, and it costs us tens of thousands of dollars in lost income, legal fees, and travel fees. As we have always said, we will stop disrupting when you stop disrupting our families.

In fact, this current campaign by the city serves to repress and stop our efforts to organize their communities to drive without fear in the state of Michigan. It is an attempt to co-opt our grassroots movement. Permits have time and again been used against movements as a way to dissuade or prevent our ability to protest and bring about change in our communities.

We have a right to peacefully protest.

Having a safe, non-violent march is Cosecha's top priority. But discussing a permit doesn't make sense without discussing the context of what our community experiences at the hands of the city of Grand Rapids. Though we are told the permit is for our safety, we have a hard time trusting a city that disregards that very safety in any of the meaningful ways we request.

As a recent example, Captain VanderKooi was reinstated last week after he turned Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a U.S. Citizen and veteran, over to ICE. In the course of this investigation, more information has been released that shows how closely GRPD works with ICE.

This is all after Cosecha specifically requested that Captain VanderKooi be fired and that the city of Grand Rapids stop all cooperation with ICE - for our safety.  

In addition, GRPD has a history of creating unsafe situations for our community. Last year at the May 1st march, several officers on horses were present as a scare tactic against our marchers. Participants felt threatened by horses walking so close to the crowd, and our children had to avoid stepping in horse waste. More seriously, horses at several moments pushed and almost injured our trained marshals, endangering volunteers and marchers. Our crowd safety folks had to act as a barrier between the police and the crowd.

So for our safety we must march for licenses peacefully - because we are in danger every day when we try to go to work, school, or church. Whether we march on the streets or on the sidewalks, we must march to make our voices heard. This is how our movement grows, and our numbers and our crowd safety team keeps us safe.

As usual, Cosecha is three steps ahead when it comes to crowd safety and crowd care. We in the community take care of each other. That is why, as in all our past marches, we have our own team of volunteers ready and trained to keep the crowd safe. For this year’s march, we have over 50 trained marshals, medics, and caretakers ready to guide the crowd and respond to any issues that may arise.

We could not be clearer - we are fighting for our lives. This is much bigger than permits or procedures, and we have a right to peacefully gather and protest. We imagine a future in which we, as the immigrant workers who create the foundation of this economy, belong. We see ourselves driving without fear in the streets of Grand Rapids. We see ourselves able to show our ID at the bank, at a restaurant when we order a drink, at our children’s school so we can volunteer. We see ourselves contributing to the great State of Michigan by driving safely in cars in our own names, with proper registration and insurance.

We ask the city of Grand Rapids to join us in that vision in a real and meaningful way.

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