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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Unions Chastise Mayor Bliss for Police Visits to Activists

Mariano Avila

The United Farm Workers and the Bill of rights Defense Committee sent Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss scathing letters over police investigation of demonstrators and student activists. 

The language is strong critiquing, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss for “using city police to intimidate student activists and supporting union busting.”

Students staged a sit-in on behalf of unionized employees of The Rapid during negotiations back in January. On March 18th, police called and went to the houses of those involved.

“Sending police to students and members doors for a civil disobedience that you have no intention of pursuing—I think that’s ridiculous, I think that’s a wrongful use of power. That’s what I think.”

That’s RiChard Jackson, president of the local chapter of the Amalgamated Transit Union, who represents the unionized employees of the Rapid. He accuses the city of harassment and intimidation. But Sgt. Terry Dixon with the GRPD says a detective assigned to the case was following procedure.

“He began to interview those who were involved, thus the telephone calls of those who thinking that they were being harassed or thinking that they were under investigation, when actually the detective was conducting his due diligence. There was no reason, there was no arrest at the time of the incident, therefore the case has been closed.”

Lindsey Disler, a student leader with United Students Against Sweatshops, and organizer of the sit in, has a different view.

“If you examine history this is a really common excuse and a really common practice to try to intimidate activists from speaking up.”

We reached out to Mayor Bliss, but she was not available for comment. 

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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