Protesters interrupt start of Bridge Walk

People protest during the Bridge Walk in downtown Grand Rapids on Sept. 4, 2017.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Bridge Walk in Grand Rapids got off to a bumpy start Monday morning, all because of a group of protesters.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss was downtown to kick off the event, but she didn’t get to say much.

A group of people took over as they protested what they describe as the mayor’s unwillingness to negotiate a new Rapid bus contract.

“Because she’s a union buster, she doesn’t need to be leading a labor march,” said protestor Louis Deshane. “She doesn’t need to be at Labor Fest.”

Protestors forced Mayor Bliss to stop her opening remarks, walk away and start the bridge walk early.

“We made Bliss go home,” Deshane asid. “So, we’re going to stick around, maybe have a couple beers, then if she comes back, protest her again. Hopefully she stays home like she’s been asked to do.”

Some protestors work with the Rapid bus system. They’re upset that they’ve been working for more than two years without a contract. They say they’ve been denied wage increases and suffered an increase in their healthcare costs.

“We’ve given the company what they wanted, which the big ticket item in the beginning was the pension,” said protestor Richard Jackson. “Over time, we fought, and fought and fought, and that hasn’t given us the result we were looking for.”

Messages to Mayor Bliss went unanswered Monday. Others didn’t think the protestors were accomplishing much.

“This is not the right way to go about getting the word out,” said Pam Marcusse, a Labor Fest organizer. “There’s other ways to get this stuff out.”

Those other ways aren’t exactly clear. Rapid workers say Mayor Bliss won’t talk with them about a new contract.

“It doesn’t help running the mayor off,” said Marcusse. “At least sit down and have a chat with her one-on-one. Don’t come to the table hot and bothered.”

No arrests were made during the protest.