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[UPDATED] Christmas tidings of vandalism and anarchy for 5 local uptown businesses

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Includes images and transcription of graffiti that includes the "F" word.

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A smashed window at The Winchester, 648 Wealthy St. SE

A smashed window at The Winchester, 648 Wealthy St. SE /George wietor

Graffiti on the garage of a ICCF townhome between Wealthy & Cherry

Graffiti on the garage of a ICCF townhome between Wealthy & Cherry /Rachel Lee

At least 5 businesses along Wealthy and Cherry Street were vandalized at around 5:00am Saturday morning. The Sparrows, The Winchester, The Meanwhile, The Greenwell and Richard App Gallery, all of which are locally-owned businesses, sustained varying degrees of damage. All were tagged with anti-establishment graffiti warning the businesses that they don’t belong in their respective neighborhoods.

The Winchester (648 Wealthy St. SE) bore the brunt of the damage when the front pane of one of it’s largest windows was smashed out with a brick marked with the circle-a anarchy symbol. Winchester owner Paul Lee, who received a call from the police at 5:30 this morning, returned to Grand Rapids from a family gathering in Cheboygan to assess the damages.

“I don’t feel that this is obviously anyone that is really from this neighborhood,” Lee said, “It seemed like the businesses were targeted - the ones that  are frequented by younger people.”

Charlie Rello, who lives on Wealthy St., was surprised to see the damage this morning. “It’s not something that happens that often,” he said, “not like that. You might see graffiti like faces or words that are people’s tag names... but you don’t necessarily see something off the wall racist.”

The damage toll:

The Sparrows Coffee Tea and Newsstand (1035 Wealthy St. SE)
The storefront’s two largest windows tagged with the words “urban renewal = classist + racist” and “Fuck You!”

The Meanwhile Bar (1005 Wealthy St. SE)
Both front windows tagged, already been cleaned as of 11:00am this morning.

The Winchester (648 Wealthy SE)
One large window smashed, other windows tagged with graffiti that read “Gentrify this!” and "Yuppie Scum yer[sic] time has come!" and had a cartoon drawing of a pig.

Richard App Gallery (910 Cherry St. SE):
The Eastern-most wall tagged with the circle-a anarchy symbol.

The Greenwell Gastro Pub (924 Cherry St. SE)
Front windows tagged with the circle-a anarchy symbol and the words “This is not your neighborhood!”

[UPDATED] Townhomes behind ICCF 
Rachel Lee, an East Hills-based community organizer, submitted a picture of the graffiti on a garage referred to by Ryan in the comments below. This garage belongs to one of the new ICCF-built townhomes between Cherry and Wealthy. The graffiti reads "Get out." Click to expand on the image in the sidebar above and to the right.

Business as usual

The GRPD crime lab was still collecting evidence at 11:00am. The Meanwhile has already been mostly cleaned up, and Lee is in the process of repairing the damages to his restaurant. It will be business as usual when the restaurant opens up tomorrow at noon.

“I don’t feel as though it should affect anything as far as the way business is run around here,” Rello said, “I don’t think anyone is going to up and move out because a brick was thrown or graffiti was placed on somebody’s window... They might tighten up security or something, maybe a cop or two... but I don’t think it’s going to scare anybody from walking up and down and doing their business here.”

Echoing Rello’s sentiments, Lee is optimistic about the future of The Winchester in the neighborhood.

“It won’t discourage us. In fact, we’ll just come back and have even bigger projects."


Map of vandalized businesses:

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There was an "anti ArtPrize" manifesto being distributed during ArtPrize.  It was a hand made, photocopied book, that specifically targeted some of the same businesses that were vandalized.  Do you have information on who to contact at the GRPD?  If anyone knows who made or distributed that booklet there is a chance that the makers of the booklet either know the people who did this act, if it wasn't themselves.  

I also noticed "Get out" tagged on the garage doors of the new condos behind ICCF.

I think it would be funny to just leave the graffiti up and respond to it and/or correct the vandals' errors.

Rachel Lee submitted a photo of the tag you mention, and I have included it above.

Thanks to both of you!

@Corey: while I am not sure who specifically to talk to at GRPD, the desk sergeant on duty might have some clues. Their number is (616) 456-3403. Were I to follow up on this story, that is who I would call.

Also, it is interesting that you should mention Against ArtPrize, I had completely forgetten about it. I wouldn't jump to any conclusions, but GRIID, a Local media analysis resource, posted a .PDF of the manifesto around the time it was originally published - you can find it at the bottom of this article:

 George and Corey, 

I wanted to respond to the comment regarding GRIID and any possible role they may have played in today's vandalism.  First it should be noted that GRIID is not what you would call a top-to-bottom organization.  The blog's main contributor is Jeff Smith and then anyone who would like to contribute media is welcome to (I have been a contributor to the site several times).

The bigger point however is that knowing Jeff, as well as other people who have worked with GRIID, I don't doubt that they would be sympathetic to some of the rhetoric used in the vandalism. However I find it next to impossible that they would be involved in this.  The way in which this was carried out makes me believe it was done by some 20 year old who has listened to too much Anti-Flag.  The people I know from GRIID hold their beliefs based on principle and years of study and research.

While GRIID is without a doubt a group committed to greater social justice, I do not think that smashing a couple of windows and writing "fuck you yuppie" is the way in which Jeff or anyone else who has involved themselves with the group wishes to go about doing it.

Please note that these views are solely mine and I have not spoken with anyone from GRIID prior to posting this comment.

I just want to clarify that I am/was by no means implicating GRIID or anyone even associated with it. Merely pointing out that a digital version of the "Against ArtPrize" tract Corey referred to is available to download and read on the GRIID website.

 I don't know what GRIID is and didn't mention them in my comment.  I just remembered there was an anti artprize manifesto going around during artprize and brought up that connection in said comment.  I remember reading something in it that encouraged people to harass business owners and harass their customers, as well as direct references to places like the Electric Cheetah and the Winchester.  Very interesting coincidences there for sure.   I didn't mention GRIID at all or try to connect this event to them, I made a loose connection to a document printed anonymously. 


My post was definitely a one sided, uninformed, and ignorant judgment made on the booklet and its authors though my comment was not anonymously made like the booklet was, its unfortunate that the authors have not made themselves publicly known as it seems they at the very least can be sought for some insight on this event as there are coincidences in language, tactic, and direction.  


Jeff is great and a very intelligent man, I remember him teaching the first class I took at GRTV back in 1990 and he is well deserving of his hard earned respect and reputation, and I made no references to him or any organization he is part of in my comment.  I only referenced a booklet I came across at Artprize, just want to clarify that.   

 The zine in question does not mention any of the businesses that were targeted and no where in the zine do they advocate property destruction. The zine is critical of ArtPrize and the role it plays in gentrifying neighborhoods, but I don't see how people can make the leap from a zine to what people did to these businesses. 

This was absolutely not my intent. Someone mentioned a publication, and I provided a link to where it was available for download for people to read themselves rather than base opinion on someone's comment in this thread.

I apologize for any misunderstanding regarding that link - I should have been more clear when providing the link above.


 I figured it wasn't your intent and thanks for the clarification.

 I appreciate the coverage, George. This is just sad.

thanks for covering this, george! i can't believe it! 

This just makes me so sad. The two best years of my life were the two that I lived on that stretch of Wealthy. It's a beautiful street for many reasons. Hands down the best place I've ever lived. I understand that gentrification has negative results but so often the "us versus them" mentality is misplaced when people have more shared beliefs and goals than they realize. It's a real shame that the people who did this don't feel they have the power to verbalize their frustrations and get results via another outlet. They should get to know the goals of the business owners on a personal basis before considering them "others" or outsiders. Real conversations are what need to happen here even if it's outside of people's comfort zones. Everyone deserves a voice but not by attacking small business owners livelyhood. It's so sad to see such cruel sentiments evolve from misplaced anger. I just hope they have the sense to think it over and find the real root of their frustrations and a productive way to make the change they want in the community.

 Was the brick that was thrown through the Winchester's window thrown from the inside?  That's what it looks like, with the brick and all the glass outside of the building.  Just curious.

It must have been thrown from the outside because the window has an undamaged inner pane of glass.  If you look closely, there is a build up of broken glass between the too panes. The brick was really  perfectly laid out in front of the broken window at the time I was there to take the picture, so it is possible that it was positioned that way by somone. I imagine a lot of people investigated it between the time of incident and when I saw it a little before 11am.

 Fair enough.  Thanks for pointing that out to me.

Cheers to Sparrows and Winchester for cleaning up the damage so quickly.

The verbiage in some tags was fairly threatening, classist and misrepresentative of reality.

I wonder if the person(s) who did this live in the neighborhood, and if so, are they contributing to gentrification themselves? Does being white and living in this neighborhood constitute gentrification? Was the neighborhood better off with boarded up windows and vacant stores?

These questions seem rhetorical but I'd sincerely be interested in the responses, if the person(s) who did this were capable of dialog that transcends spray paint and bricks.

I will take bets that none of these actions had anything to do with anyone who actually lives and works works in my neighborhood, where these incidents took place. I would wager that the actions were by a group of ill informed, middle-class, suburban kids with much angst and little knowledge. What has happened over the past 30 years in East Hills is called re-investment, people buying into a community and investing in making the place better for everyone who lives here. I am sure that these self involved criminals have delusions that their actions are a protest against some imagined machine trying to keep people suppressed when in actuality they are hurting the best thing we have in our city, people who are banking on the success of our city by opening businesses and providing jobs and stabilizing property values. Maybe when the ganja and patchouli cloud clears these people will come to understand that trying to make your community a better place is not limited to random acts of vandalism but actually doing something productive.

"Anarchists" targeting the Meanwhile makes about as much sense as right to life picketing a catholic church. I'm pretty sure the people that did this are not part of any organized "leftist" group in town.

I think we can all agree that vandalizing small businesses is a poor way to get a point across. However, if anything positive can be taken from this situation, it might be an open discussion on the impact of development in the community. While I enjoy and benefit from the development that has taken place, not everyone feels the same way. Gentrification is a real thing. I sincerely believe that development can occur that takes the original neighborhood and inhabitants into consideration, unfortunately that is not always the case.

For example, many of the businesses that have sprung up along Wealthy Street in the last few years pride themselves on hiring from and serving the neighborhood. We're talking about a business district on the edge of a predominantly African American neighborhood, and yet the employees and clientele do not reflect this. This is just one example of how development within a community can struggle to be inclusive.

Do I enjoy supporting and frequenting these businesses? Absolutely. Should we, as a community, discuss the impact of development? Absolutely.

Additionally, I don't think we should jump to conclusions about the individuals who committed the vandalism. Angry, white, suburban kids? Maybe. But I know plenty of other people who live in these neighborhoods, who are not angry, white, suburban kids, and who have real concerns about the development that is taking place. For this reason, I think that having some type of forum where everyone has a chance to share their voice will benefit the community.

 Thank you for that comment Sara. I totally agree with everything you said.

  Perhaps we should be clear on what is meant by gentrification before we make claims such as  "many businesses that have sprung up along Wealthy Street in the last few years" are an example of gentrification or, at least, an example of how development doesn't always take "the original neighborhood and inhabitants into consideration."  Either way, I think your claims are questionable at best. What is the "original neighborhood"?  Who are the "original inhabitants"?  How do these business not take them "into consideration"?   

The Rapidian actually had a good article on this last January:

 Sara, I would certainly be in favor of a community forum to discuss the issues of class, race and gentrification in the uptown area and would gladly lend time/work to make that happen.

Jeff, how could we bring such a forum to fruition? I have little experience organizing in this manner, but I would be interested to see what would come of it.

 Sara, it would depend on what sort of outcome people wanted, but it would involve finding a venue, date and time that will work for the most people.

I think for something like this that would seek to raise issues around race, class and development/gentrification it would be good to have some working definitions and examples of how racism, classism are manifested through gentrification. It would be important to provide some historical background beyond the "it used to be boarded up buildings" sentiment and maybe even some discussion about how to move forward in such a way that racism and classism can be minimized/eliminated.

At such a forum it may be useful to have some of the discussion in one large group, but it would also be good to have small group discussion as well, so that more people and ideas could be shared.

I think the real key is coming up with a just framework with a goal(s) in order to avoid the forum just becoming a shouting match or venue to rant. These are just what comes to mind, but it is somewhat of an involved process, especially if you want to accomplish something that would be worth people's time.

 I think this sounds like an excellent idea and would love to participate in organizing a forum.

i don't have much to add, but would like to say i'm sorry this has happened to the owners of these five businesses, and i'm hopeful that some kind of community forum about race and development could take place in the future. 

i've heard many people talk about what's good for others (or what's not good for others) in threads like these, in meeting rooms and living rooms, but meaningful engagement and discussion is rare.  some cities have explicit goals to conduct community visioning or feedback processes that include citizens from all language, cultural, ethnic backgrounds before development takes place and it is challenging, imperfect work.  while i think these processes are often flawed and/or insufficient, i believe this is a step in the right direction.  i think there are a lot of people doing great things in the development world in GR, like suzanne schulz creating the green grand rapids series.  but it seemed to me (when i lived in grand rapids) there was a lack of straightforward discussion about race or intentionality in approaching issues like planning and development through a race and social justice lens in GR, particularly among city leaders.

bottom line, i'm really glad to see some of you brainstorming the possibility of a community forum on this topic and if i were still in the area, i'd be super pumped to meet you and share ideas!  best, christa

I am encouraged by recent posts suggesting dialog about the gentrification that has taken place along Wealthy St. Why is it that a person of higher means living/doing business in a building with a higher property value is considered "improvement" if people of limited means occupying the same space were comfortable with things as they were? Especially if these same people have since been forced to close businesses or move to other  homes because of higher rents or increased enforcement of codes that made it too costly to remain.

Another concern is the increased traffic. Has anyone considered how the increase in air pollution is impacting area residents with asthma (a disease of air pollution) or how the traffic has impacted pedestrian safety (specifically that of neighborhood children)?

And, while the developers and new (white) residents reap financial rewards in the form of tax breaks and such, what kind of a break is given to existing businesses or families that had to make expensive repairs, cough up higher rents or incur the costs of moving to a different, less expensive neighborhood?


That said, I did take exceptional offense at the ensuing witch hunt that took place on other blogs with people ridiculously speculating that an Artprize critique event last August  was in any way linked to this vandalism--this in spite of George's subsequent clarification. (Thank you, George.) 


Some interesting discussion going on in the comments of GRIID piece regarding this issue.