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Equity Drinks to include police chief in public discussion on rifle purchases

Local discussion group to continue pushing forward conversations on race, policing at Rezervoir Lounge on January 7, 2015.
Equity Drinks

Equity Drinks /Jeremy Bird

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Who we are

Since that first event at The Meanwhile Bar, Equity Drinks has held bi-monthly events at locations that reflect and are open to equity principles. We hold events at locations like The Apartment Lounge, the Pyramid Scheme or partner with LINC's First Fridays, because their ownership or leadership is committed to practicing principles of equity. On our first year anniversary Equity Drinks partnered with BLEND, OutPro and The Salon to hold "How We Grow" at the Wealthy Theatre – a discussion on the lived experienced of growth in Grand Rapids, and how that experience is negatively disparate for people of color.


Equity Drinks is focusing on developing a network for people who identify as working to advance equity in Grand Rapids. We believe understanding the complexity of those doing the work sets a foundation for action.

In August of 2014, Equity Drinks was born from informal conversations with institutional leaders, business owners, activists and organizers in the community. These conversations bemoaned the lack of relationship-development space between those working in or wanting to connect into equity spaces (LGBT, racial, gender, disabilities and so on) to work and grow.

The Equity Drinks leadership has also publicly taken a stand on equity issues. Last week, hidden by the end of long-lived tenures by Mayor Heartwell and City Commissioners Walt Gutowski and Elias Lumpkins, the City Commission voted 5-2 to allow the Grand Rapids Police Department to purchase semi-automatic rifles for placement in police cruisers.

Despite year-long cries for public discussion on the matter by Commissioners Ruth Kelly and Senita Lenear, the Committee as a whole met on December 15, prior to the City Commission general meeting, and voted to allow the purchase, with Lenear and Kelly as the only dissenting votes. No public comment was allowed at the Committee as a whole, nor was any public comment solicited prior to this decision – even though community concerns primarily caused the initial purchase delay.

At the next Equity Drinks on Jan 7, from 5-7 p.m. at the Rezervoir Lounge, Chief David Rahinsky will attend to discuss the purchase of the rifles. We will spend considerable time for questions from the Equity Drinks network regarding the reasoning, process and concerns of citizens around this issue.

Equity Drinks leadership spoke out against this process and we continue to recommend a delay in the purchase of these weapons until a broader, facilitated community conversation can be had between the Grand Rapids Police Department and communities– specifically, communities of color– that have every reason to be concerned that rifle purchases happen more quickly than fulfillment of the 12 point police reform plan.

For the people of Grand Rapids, this issue runs deeper than the mere purchase of guns. Time and time again citizens of this blossoming city are reminded that growth is not an option but an idea imposed upon them. Add in the estranged relationship of law enforcement with communities of color and you get the culmination of taxpayers that have all but lost faith in their city officials and representatives, fanning the flames of distrust and exemplifying the power dynamic that is imbrued in this city.

In these communities, more guns mean more black and brown bodies that do not make it home for Thanksgiving, Christmas or even Sunday dinner. Without engaging those who may be affected by this decision, Grand Rapids is showing a lack of regard for the narratives of citizens who have called the city home for decades yet have a “love/hate” relationship in regard to whether their voice matters in issues such as these.

We ask those who want to be policed differently to come to Equity Drinks on Jan 7 to clearly articulate how they want to be policed, and to voice their opinions, fears and concerns regarding the assault rifles to Rahinsky.

We believe decisions without public input like this latest rifle purchase are made easier for city leadership because Grand Rapids as a whole does not hold its City Commissioners or public servants, such as the Police Department, fully accountable. Let’s start by diligently and persistently communicating how we want to be policed and how we want to be governed. If we don’t, shouldn’t we expect more decisions to be made without our input with devastating results not unlike Ferguson, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago, Waller County or Staten Island?

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