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Anti-ICE protesters shut down Kent County Board of Commissioners

By Staff |
June 28, 2018
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Over 200 pack the Kent County, Michigan Board of Commissioners meeting.
Over 200 pack the Kent County, Michigan Board of Commissioners meeting. Over 200 pack the Kent County, Michigan Board of Commissioners meeting.
Michigan protesters demand Kent County end their contract with ICE.
Michigan protesters demand Kent County end their contract with ICE.

Over 200 protesters jammed the Kent County Board of Commissioners meeting and shut it down on June 28. The room was packed with polite but determined people, overflowing into the hallway. The protesters held homemade signs, "ICE out of Kent County" and "Stop separating families!"

Protesters want Kent County commissioners to take a stand and refuse the contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE is responsible for raiding homes and work places and locking people up in Michigan. The ICE raids cause widespread anxiety and terror in Michigan, where many immigrants come to work harvesting crops for farmers, as well as in low-paid industrial and service sector jobs.

Board of Commissioners Chair Jim Saalfeld purposefully antagonized the crowded room by suggesting only two speakers be allowed. Saalfeld then claimed there was a three-minute limit when the county website clearly states five. It did not matter, as the protesters took over the room and proceeded to hold their own speak out. Many of the commissioners quickly fled the room, while a few stayed to listen to what the people had to say. Speakers made comparisons to the history of separating babies and children from their parents during American slavery and as Native Americans were forced from their lands and homes.

A related controversy in Grand Rapids is the role of Bethany Christian Services for their part in taking and holding babies separate from their detained parents. The infants and toddlers are flown over 1500 miles from U.S. border detention centers to Grand Rapids, at tax payer expense. The social service agency is under fire for what appears to most as "legal kidnapping."

"Separating immigrant families is cruel at the border, and cruel in our own community," said the statement from the protest group.