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City officials say arrests possible as organizers plan march in Grand Rapids

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Scene from the May 1st march for immigrant rights in Grand Rapids in 2017.

Immigrant’s rights marches are planned for Wednesday in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids.

Demonstrators are calling for the state to issue driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. The annual marches have drawn thousands of people into the streets in years past.

This year, the city of Grand Rapids is threatening arrests if demonstrators block traffic as they have in previous years.

“At the moment the group of people is blocking the traffic, the police department will proceed in removing them so that traffic can continue,” says Tom Almonte, who serves as an assistant to the Grand Rapids city manager.

City staff asked the organizers of this year’s march to get a permit for the event. Leaders from Movimiento Cosecha GR say they haven’t gotten permits for the march in the past, and they won’t do so on Wednesday.

“We believe that within the community and our allies, we can take care of ourselves,” said Lorena Aguayo-Marquez, translating from a statement by Ana Isabel, both of Movimiento Cosecha GR. “And we know because of that, that a permit for the march is not going to protect us.”

Grand Rapids police have largely avoided arrests in previous years, despite the marchers taking to the street, blocking traffic and often ignoring instructions from police.

This year, the city says it won’t allow that.

But for now, the organizers say they have no plans to change their approach. They say they will be in the street during the march. It begins at noon in Garfield Park in Grand Rapids.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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