EGR residents ‘appalled’ by alt-right flyers

Flyers supporting "alt-right" websites were spotted in East Grand Rapids. (Nov. 5, 2017)

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Flyers supporting white nationalism posted in East Grand Rapids have some residents saying they won’t stand for bigotry in their neighborhoods.

Those signs turned up Sunday morning on front lawns, trees and a city sign. Some read, “It’s okay to be white.” One says, “Don’t be fooled white people” and lists movements to oppose. They included links to websites that identify has alt-right.

Photo: Flyers supporting “alt-right” websites were spotted in East Grand Rapids. (Nov. 5, 2017)

East Grand Rapids Public Safety Director Mark Herald said the department is launching an investigation to find out who posted the flyers.

The signs were alarming for many neighbors who say East Grand Rapids is inclusive.

“I was appalled and I was incensed, very upset,” East Grand Rapids parent Amy Tuitel said.

“The people (who posted the flyers) obviously aren’t comfortable showing themselves during the day, aren’t comfortable showing it in their own front yards, but they have to come into someone else’s yard and neighborhood and put the signs up and such,” resident Michael TerHorst said.

Photo: A flyer pushing to “alt-right” websites found in East Grand Rapids. (Nov. 5, 2017)

East Grand Rapids neighbors say they won’t stand for it.

“Very weak people, people who don’t have much self-confidence, people who feel they need to put other people down to make themselves feel better and I think they won’t get very far,” Tuitel said of the people who posted the flyers. “But I also think it needs to be brought to light so that everybody knows to stop it and to make sure that it doesn’t continue.”

She lived in East Grand Rapids for years and all of her children attended East Grand Rapids Schools, though her family has since moved just beyond the city border. She said these types of signs and rhetoric shouldn’t be tolerated.

She and TerHorst are part of a group that’s pushing back against any kind of preconceptions the city may have had in the past.

“Majority of people (in East Grand Rapids) have been transplants from other major cities throughout the country or have had the opportunity to maybe travel or live elsewhere and maybe aren’t of some of the legacy reputations that were once more apparent here in town,” TerHorst said.

The white nationalist signage impacts TerHorst’s family deeply, as he and his wife adopted a biracial son.

“Now that I’m a parent of a biracial child, that even hits us to a whole another level that we couldn’t even really appreciate or understand until the day he was born and we were there with him. And now we look at the world even through that unique lens,” TerHorst said.

The Washington Post reports similar signage has appeared on college campuses across the country.

East Grand Rapids Mayor Amna Seibold issued this statement on the matter Sunday night:

“Earlier today, we learned that white supremacist leaflets were placed in some of our neighborhoods. We clearly do not agree with nor support the sentiments of these messages and have removed all from public property.

“Nationally, leaflets like these have been appearing in communities around the country with the intent to provoke reactions and prompt media coverage.

“We appreciate our residents for calling these to our attention and encourage anyone with information to contact Public Safety at 616.949.7010. We encourage media in our community not to give these groups the validity they crave by reporting on their actions.

“One of the hallmarks of East Grand Rapids is being an inclusive community for all who live and visit here – and that has not changed.”

The Grand Rapids Police Department said it got reports of similar flyers left on a couple dozen windshields along Sigsbee and Logan streets SE and along Benjamin and Ethel avenues SE in Eastown. A GRPD spokeswoman noted it is against city ordinance to leave such “propaganda or advertisements” on windshields.

In a Sunday Facebook post, the Eastown Community Association said it was “abhorred” and condemned the message in the flyers and the people who posted them.

“This cowardly and shameful act of violence was perpetrated against our community under cover of darkness, demonstrating that those responsible knew that it would be openly rejected by the Eastown community,” the post read in part.

“Hate has no home in Eastown,” the post continued.

Anyone who knows anything about the flyers is asked to call East Grand Rapids police at 616.949.7010 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.