The Rapidian

Protesters disrupt planned Labor Day walk

During the Grand Rapids Labor Day Bridge Walk, on Monday, September 4, 2017, protestors disrupted Mayor Bliss' planned remarks.
ATU supporters protest at the start of Grand Rapids Labor-day walk

ATU supporters protest at the start of Grand Rapids Labor-day walk /John Rothwell

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 Protesters block Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss from addressing walker at the start of the local Labor Day Bridge Walk

Protesters block Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss from addressing walker at the start of the local Labor Day Bridge Walk /John Rothwell

Michelle Covington (Left) Mayor Bliss and  Lupe Ramos-Montigny (Red white and blue top) Walking in the Labor day walk.

Michelle Covington (Left) Mayor Bliss and Lupe Ramos-Montigny (Red white and blue top) Walking in the Labor day walk. /John Rothwell

After a one-year hiatus, the Grand Rapids Labor Day Bridge Walk was back in full stride on Monday, September 4, 2017. As hundreds of participants lined up to start the five-mile walk, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss was disrupted from addressing the crowd when she was met by protesters supporting the local Amalgamated Transit Union. She stepped back and started the walk early as a result. 

The ATU has been in a contract dispute with The Rapid for over two years. Social Alternative Grand Rapids members came out to work with, and support the ATU in shutting down Mayor Bliss from speaking to the walkers and to bring attention to the lack of contract.

“She is largely responsible for this union busting that is going on with The Rapid,” branch organizer of Social Alternative Grand Rapids Philip Snyder said. “Frankly, how dare she speak on Labor Day at Laborfest as a quote union supporter, when in actuality she is fighting unions every step of the way.”

As the protest was taking place, walking participants involved were booing and yelling at the protesters. Many could be overheard asking the protesters why they were disrupting a family event and what were they doing protesting on a holiday, with some going as far to call the protesters anti-American and Commies.

“It was certainly ironic, but somewhat expected, that people were booing. The protest and support being held in a conservative town such as Grand Rapids (is ironic),” Snyder said. “Labor Day has lost a lot of its meaning as a holiday for workers. It is now a long weekend to shop at sales, go to the beach, camp or a last time downtown. We are having a beer tent. People do not associate the day with labor anymore.”

Walking participant Michelle Covington felt that the Mayor needed some security or a body guard, reporting her concern to the Grand Rapids Police. Shortly after, Mayor Bliss was met by Grand Rapids Police where she exited the walk on her own behalf as participants continued on.

Lupe Ramos-Montigny walked next to the Mayor in support of Labor Day and general labor in the area.

“I believe in open protest, that we have the freedom of speech, but what I do not agree with is harassment," Ramos-Montigny said.

Protesters were glad to see the mayor leave.

"It's Labor Day, she's a union buster. She (Bliss) does not belong here, so we came here and started chanting, go home Bliss, union busting is disgusting,” Local ATU member Louis DeShane said. “At Scribner and Bridge we finally blocked her at the corner there, and she finally left. So we were like na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey, hey, hey good-bye. Our goal was accomplished, we shut her down.” 

Members of the ATU have been without a contract for over two years and Mayor Bliss is a Rapids Transit board member. The board voted in favor of a merit increase for Rapid CEO Peter Varga during the August 30, 2017 board meeting where DeShane was arrested.

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