ALLENDALE, Mich. — Tensions ran high in Allendale Sunday as neighbors voiced their frustrations with two painted murals and a handful of chalk messages.
Around 7 p.m., roughly a dozen activists from Justice for Black Lives, TakeItDown! Allendale, and the Michigan Association of Civil Rights went to the township hall, brushes and chalk in hand, ready to paint murals saying “Black Lives Matter” and “Take it Down”, which is in reference to a controversial Civil War statue at the Allendale Garden of Honor.
The statue shows a Confederate and Union soldier with a Black child at their feet holding a sign that reads “Freedom to Slaves.”
In a press release previewing the event, Mitch Kahle, an organizer, described it as a “peaceful, free-speech demonstration.”
Tony Miller and his wife, Jessica, live in Allendale and attended to bring awareness and a message of inclusivity, which they say they haven’t always experienced in the area.
“This is not something that’s just now,” said Tony Miller. “For somebody like me, this has been going on all my life. I’ve dealt with this in some way shape or form no matter where I’ve lived.”
Within minutes of the beginning of the gathering, protestors showed up. They voiced their frustrations and wrote their own messages, even defacing some of the others.
“I just don’t understand why people are so mad,” said Rick Westerling. “Why they want to take down our statues, wreck our parking lot? I don’t understand half of what’s going on here. I just want everyone to get along.”
Westerling, along with other protestors, dumped water on the paintings toward the end of the night.
“It’s a bunch of people coming out here to bully us,” said Jessica Miller. “Maybe eventually things like this will bring people. Maybe something will click.”