With signs reading, “Shame on Snyder, thank you Heartwell” and “Stop war, not refugees!”, the Grand Rapids Anti-War Committee brought the torch of tolerance downtown on Nov. 30, 2015. They joined together with the weekly peace vigil under the steady gaze of the Union Soldier monument at Fulton and Division streets.
The 20 protesters, members and supporters of IGE, gathered in response to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s anti-refugee comments. Snyder kicked of a nationwide Republican campaign of fear and hatred towards Syrian and Iraqi refugees when he announced he was putting a pause on refugees coming to Michigan. Mayor Heartwell on the other hand said we must not give into fear.
At the busy corner of Fulton and Division, drivers honked their horns and gave protesters the thumbs up every time the traffic light changed. Kiersten Quilliams of IGE stood with her friends and held a sign with an image of the Statue of Liberty reminding people, “Refugees are welcome here!”
Passersby stopped to take flyers, ask questions, and show support. It was clear that public support for refugees, and against endless U.S. wars, is stronger than the corporate media portrays.
The Grand Rapids Anti-War Committee statement read:
“By claiming he will put Syrian refugees ‘on pause,’ Michigan Governor Snyder is not only threatening to violate federal law but also endangering the lives of the existing Syrian refugee population here in Michigan, and all Muslims and Arab Americans.
“Thanks to Governor Snyder’s comments last week, Republican governors and presidential candidates across the country are now promoting racism, hatred and bigotry. This creates theconditions for bigots and white supremacists to harass and attack Arab Americans, Muslims and anyone else they decide to target. It reminds us how this country treated Jews fleeing German Nazism, and the disgraceful imprisonment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps.
“We Michiganders will not allow this hatred and bigotry, as this governor attempts to go rogue against federal law, UN Human Rights and common human decency. Syrians are refugees from a civil war provoked by the U.S. State Department, with arms and funding from the U.S. government.
“We invite you to come stand with the refugees and send a message to Governor Snyder. We will demand that Snyder, and all the other racist governors admit refugees, especially from war-torn Syria. If there were no U.S. wars in the Middle East, there would be no refugees.