GRAND HAVEN, Mich—A unity rally held at 11 AM Saturday together Veterans in Grand Haven to show support for the cross to remain on Dewey Hill. The event included a conversation, a prayer, the launch of a petition, and a short motorcycle ride through downtown Grand Haven.
“We are the majority. We are here to stay. So is the cross,” said Rick Phillips, a local realtor and Vietnam veteran.
In early September a group of people sent a request to the city of Grand Haven to take down a cross that's been on Dewey hill since the 60s, and raised 10-days out of the summer for worship. Some civil rights activists believe the cross, on city-owned land is unconstitutional.
Now local veterans say they've fought for their county, and now they're ready to do the same for their cross. The ride was decorated with religious crosses on clothes, motorcycles, and even being carried.
“We have a voice and we are going to be heard,” said Phillips.
Phillips helped to facilitate the event, and even started a petition to save the cross that launched at the event. No one came to the event that wants the cross removed from Dewey Hill.
“We realize that the predominant majority of people living here are Christians but that doesn`t entitle them to special privileges from the city to own the cross from city owned land, so that is what we are contesting,” said Brian Plescher, an advocated for the cross coming off city-owned land. However, Plescher does support the right of the people who want the cross to stay to have their rally, and ride around town to voice their beliefs.
“We think it’s important for people on the keep the Grand Haven cross page to be able to be able to express their right to free speech,” said Plescher.
The veterans asked the city if they could raise the cross for their rally today, but they say the city declined.
According to Plescher, the city has not given him any sort of direct response on his request to take down the cross but according to city documents that Fox 17 obtained the equal access and use of public property purpose is to ensure that content on public land is non-discriminatory and neutral.
“If the cross was shown on someone`s private property or on that of a church we wouldn`t have an argument ,” said Plescher.
According to city documents, the cross is paid for by an anonymous donor, and $1500 was given to the city in February, 2013. The church pays $220 every time they raise the cross in the summer to the city. Despite being paid for by sources other than the city, Plescher says it`s still not right.
“Our idea is that that all religions in the city of Grand Haven should have the same rights as Christians in this community,” said Plescher.
As Phillips rides off through the daylight he says the Grand Haven cross is rooted in history, and that should be enough.
“I can speak from the veteran’s point of view, and the veterans that I speak with fought, we bled, and guys and gals died for this right. God and country, it’s pretty darn important,” he said.