Grand Rapids, MI - Chanting “Condi lied, people died!” 40 people with Occupy Grand Rapids protested outside Devos Place, Nov. 16. Inside, Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State under the Bush administration, spoke at a $100 per plate Republican Party fund raising dinner. At the entrance to the event, Occupy protesters put a giant puppet of former Secretary of State Rice on trial for her war crimes against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Inside, a small gathering of Republican die-hards heard Rice promote her new book in which she defends the U.S. wars and occupations.
Standing under the Union Civil War soldier statue, where the Occupy protest began its march through downtown Grand Rapids, Alex Beecroft with Occupy Grand Rapids said, “The U.S. war in Iraq has definitely been a big presence and contributor to difficult economic times we find ourselves in. Condoleezza Rice was a big proponent of the lies that got the U.S. into a war in Iraq. The lies about the Weapons of Mass Destruction that did not exist and the lies about the connections to Al Qaeda from Iraq, that were not there. She just soapboxed these lies for years. I know the platforms for war were false. War by false pretenses is inherently wrong.”
During the march through downtown, protester Jeff Smith said, “We are confronting Condoleezza Rice while she is in town for her participation in war crimes during the Bush years when literally hundreds of thousands of people were killed at the hands of the U.S. military in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. The other thing is that the protest relates to the Occupy Movement because the billions of dollars spent on brutal and bloody wars is money taken away from working class people. It is money that could have gone to schools, people’s health care and other public needs.”
Once outside the Rice book signing, Greg Shotwell, a retired United Auto Worker said, “The Bush government lied to us about weapons of mass destruction and started an illegal war in Iraq, and then we found out the real mass destruction was occurring right there on Wall Street. None of the people who perpetuated the financial disaster that we are suffering from have been brought to justice. None of them have been arrested. They are going to arrest Occupy protesters, but the people who actually caused the destruction are not only walking around free, but they have been rewarded!”
Shotwell continued, “After 911, they cut taxes on the 1%, the wealthiest people, and then distracted us with this war on Iraq. What does that cost us? Billions and billions of dollars, thousands of lives and what do we get in return? We have gained nothing from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nothing at all. We have to make this democracy more accountable to the 99% of the people. Right now this government is owned and controlled by the wealthiest and I think that is something we all understand. Everyone feels it in their daily lives.”
Grand Rapids is a city where six billionaires dominate the local economy and government. There is a relentless march of Republican has-beens like Condoleezza Rice through town promoting the most extreme conservative agenda for U.S. war and occupation, against taxing the rich and the Tea Party agenda. The manufacturing jobs are largely gone, shipped overseas, while the corporate headquarters remain to collect overseas profits benefitting the 1%. In a small city where one cannot gaze without seeing buildings and projects named after the billionaires DeVos, Van Andel or Secchia, they have even taken to putting up bronze statues of their family and their friends. The ever-present 1% wants everyone to know who owns Grand Rapids.
Meanwhile Occupy Grand Rapids continues to camp out at Fountain Street Church and organize protests supporting war vets and working people, while opposing the big banks, Vice President Joe Biden and the latest target - professor and war criminal Condoleezza Rice.