Last week, the final charges over a protest outside of Grand Rapids area Congressman Vern Ehlers’ house on March 17, 2007 were settled. The protest involved the arrest of four people after the Grand Rapids Police Department made an unprovoked arrest following a march to the Congressman’s house.
According to a report in the Grand Rapids Press, prosecutors working for the City of Grand Rapids dropped charges against a Grand Valley State University (GVSU) sociology professor who was accused of obstructing a police officer. Similarly, charges against a protestor who faced three counts were reduced to a charge of “failure to obey a police officer’s orders.” The protestor who was initially arrested by police had charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest reduced to a civil infraction (basically a traffic ticket). The only protestor with unchanged charges went paid a fine of $140.
The protest gained significant attention in the local corporate media (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) in large part due to the arrests. However, more important than the arrests, was the success that ACTIVATE/SDS had in showing Representative Ehlers that there is significant demand for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. While Ehlers has maintained his continued support for the occupation of Iraq, the experience of having more than two-hundred protestors appear at his door clearly impacted Ehlers. At numerous public events (1, 2, 3), Ehlers has referenced the event, describing it as unprecedented and explaining that it is absolutely unheard of among his colleagues in Washington to have constituents visit their home.
On a tactical level, the protest was a major shift in focus for the antiwar protests customarily held on the anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq. While past protests have had no focus on individuals or institutions responsible for the war (1, 2, 3), the March 17, 2007 protest took protestors concerns directly to a person who was responsible for the war. Protestors specifically sought to have a conversation with Ehlers to persuade him to sign a pledge to support an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq by voting to cut funds for the war. Moreover, for the first time at such a demonstration, Ehlers was forced to respond to protestors’ concerns. The protest also renewed focus on Representative Ehlers who was targeted occasionally before the war started but had largely avoided the scrutiny of the local antiwar movement. Since March 17th, Ehlers has been targeted at two public appearances by ACTIVATE/SDS (1, 2) and has been the focus of sustained protesting and lobbying by the Iraq Summer campaign.
A video from the protest outside of Ehlers’ house: