White nationalism answered with anti-Nazi flyers

Flyers speaking out against Nazis and white supremacists posted in East Grand Rapids. (Courtesy Facebook - Nov. 7, 2017)

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Days after someone posted white nationalist messages in East Grand Rapids, someone put up anti-Nazi flyers.

People in the neighborhood who 24 Hour News 8 spoke to say they just want to an end to the conflict.

Messages found posted in East Grand Rapids and the Eastown neighborhood in Grand Rapids over the weekend read, “It’s okay to be white,” and “Don’t be fooled white people.” The posters listed websites that identify as alt-right. The flyers were soon pulled down and the East Grand Rapids and community organizations condemned the hatred.

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

Not long after, the white nationalist flyers were answered with posters that read, “Nazi lives don’t matter” and a poster standing against racism, sexism and all forms of bigotry.

“I lived in the area for like 18, 19 years and it’s the first thing that’s kind of hit home, that’s so close,” East Grand Rapids resident Barb Reid said. “You hear about it on the news that it happens in other areas, maybe in Grand Rapids, but this is a little close.”

The situation is alarming for everyone 24 Hour News 8 talked to in East Grand Rapids over the last few days. Few wanted to discuss the topic on camera, but the flyers certainly sparked debate online.

“It’s too bad there’s not a dialogue somewhere to have it because the way it’s posted, I’ve seen it on Facebook and social media and that’s not the way to do it. I think that’s kind of — not cowardly, but if you want to have it, have a forum somewhere,” Reid said.

“Everyone wants the same things,” East Grand Rapids resident Deborah Hughes said. “They want to be able to live and have a home and food and take care of their children and they want the best for their family and their community. And so I think there’s common ground to be found if we can have a conversation.”

That’s the bottom line many neighbors hoping the battle of the flyers ends with constructive dialogue.

The East Grand Rapids Department of Public Safety continues to investigate who’s behind the flyers.

Mayor Amna Seibold declined to interview with 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday night because, a spokesman said, she addressed the issue extensively at a city commission meeting Monday night.

A full transcript of her statements provided by the city:

“This weekend, white supremacist leaflets were placed in some of our neighborhoods.

“I want to make this very clear, we do not agree with nor support the sentiments of these messages — racism has no place in our community.

“Nationally, leaflets like these have been appearing in communities around the country.

“According to the so-called game plan of this national group, these signs are designed to garner media attention and expose American journalists and politically left-leaning individuals as “hating white people.” The end goal is to encourage people to disregard news outlets as credible and, ultimately, convert people to the white nationalist, alt-right side.

“This is why we have encouraged the media not to cover this situation and why we’ve encouraged residents not to share photos — it gives voice and legitimacy to these groups. It has nothing to do with wanting to silence resident’s concerns, but all to do with not spreading these messages of hate.

“There has been a lot of chatter on social media in regards to how we’ve responded to this incident. I want to clear a few things up.

“Yesterday, our public safety officers removed all of the leaflets found on public property immediately once notified.

“Many of the signs were placed on private property, including yard signs and trees. Our officers were not able to remove these signs without the property owner’s permission. Our officers did offer to help remove signs as long as they were given consent from the property owner.

“Since this incident was reported, our officers have canvased the neighborhood speaking with residents and reviewed school camera footage. A detective has been assigned to the case and is collaborating with the Grand Rapids Police Department to share any possible information.

“While we need to combat any behavior that could disparage anyone of our community members, we need to ensure we are doing so thoughtfully. We never want to feed into the negativity and unwillingly share racist ideals.

“But there is good news here, folks. This type of hate-speech was brought in under cover of darkness because the perpetrators know that East Grand Rapids residents do not support these thoughts and words.

“These sentiments cannot be posted under the light of day; they do not stand up to scrutiny. Our well-educated community knows that for our community, our country, our world to move forward, we need to treat all people as equals.

“I can update Abraham Lincoln’s speech by saying that “Twelve score and two years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that everyone is created equal.

“We know this. We believe this. We teach this to our children. And we are not going to let ignorant cowards derail us and cause infighting. Let your disdain fall on the perpetrators, wherever they are. But do not direct your anger to our Public Safety Officers, who work each day to keep us, and our families, safe.

“Public Safety will continue to investigate this matter and we encourage anyone with information to call 949.7010.

“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.”