GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — A group in West Michigan is calling for change, when it comes to how people are treating local school boards and health departments. Anger and vitriol towards local boards and health officials has been a common theme of 2021, as leaders catch heat for school mask mandates and more.
In Kent County, the health department director says he’s been threatened and even run off the road by angry residents. During an Ottawa County Board of Commissioners meeting in August, a public commenter told commissioners there was “hell coming.”
“I’m not doing it to threaten anybody, but there’s a lot of good guys out there ready to do bad things soon. Watch what’s coming,” he added.
On Sunday, a group of people gathered in Grand Haven for a rally to end the angry, threatening rhetoric directed towards local leaders.
“We are really advocating for non-violence. We want people to participate in these meetings, but we just want them to do it in a better way without the harassment, the bullying, the intimidation and threats. So that's what we really want to encourage moving forward,” says Nick Brock the executive director of Vote Common Good West Michigan, who alongside other community groups held the rally Sunday to encourage people to tone down their rhetoric.
“I really want people to exercise their freedoms, their ability for freedom of speech and assembly. But I want them to do it in a way that doesn't threaten people's personal safety where they don't have to move to a different location from where they're living,” Brock said. “I want to encourage those who are pushing the political and religious rhetoric that compels these people to really rethink how they're doing things to rethink their tactics, because it's harming people, mentally and physically within the community.”
Supporters also signed a thank you card for workers at Kent and Ottawa County Health Departments. According to Brock, it's just a small token of appreciation for their work, from some people who care.
“It means a lot. It means a lot that this community is paying attention to what's going on. And it means that they they really value what happens at the intersection of faith and politics,” Brock said.