Opposing groups, both armed, held rallies in Allendale, Michigan Saturday afternoon. The American Patriot Council (APC) – a pro-Trump movement which encourages a militia presence at its events – called for more than 40 “National Freedom March” rallies across the United States to take place.
Justice for Black Lives, a Grand Rapids-based organization, held a counter-protest. Other organizations, such as the Grand Valley State University chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America, joined Justice for Black Lives at the event.
Ryan Kelley, a local elected official and organizer with the American Patriot Council, spoke out from the Freedom March stage, which was filled with American flags.
“I want to give a special thank you today to our militia guys,” said Kelley. “We know that our militia are here with good intentions.”
“And even though the media tries to portray them in a different light, that’s a small percentage of people believing it,” he added.
Justice for Black Lives primarily focused their counter-demonstration on Kelley, who holds an elected position on the township’s planning commission.
Kelley has previously invited militia organizations to Allendale, and is accused of being connected to one of 13 militiamen allegedly involved in a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
“Hey hey, ho ho! Ryan Kelley has got to go!” chanted counter-protesters as the march went by them the first time. Both sides were armed, but no violence occurred.
“Allendale: Terrorists Welcome” said one protester’s sign, with an image of Kelley modified to add a Hitler-style mustache. “Fuhrer Kelley welcomes you.”
Activists on the counter-protester side stood in a shield formation with some armed with guns as the “Freedom March” looped around and went back by them. Again, the two sides exchanged some words but kept separate, and no violence occurred.
Michigan Militia activist Taylor Stalter spoke to an antifascist medic. He described that he actually has marched with Black Lives Matter, but says he doesn’t support some aspects of their agenda. The medic said “thank you” for the conversation.
“They were peaceful,” one miltiaman acknowledged to News2Share. “Ya, they had some few choice words for people walking, but whatever, that’s their right to do so.”
He added he wouldn’t counter-protest someone else’s rally, but that it’s their right to do so.
Conservatives, Militiamen Hold “American Patriot Rally” In Allendale, Michigan https://t.co/GYf3M47EbQ
— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) October 24, 2020
Katherine Henry, a lawyer who has challenged Gov Whitmer’s COVID-era executive orders, praised the militia groups at the event.
She said that two of the men charged in the alleged kidnapping plot were at a previous event, and she condemned their arrests and treatment by media.
While discussing Governor Whitmer, chants of “lock her up” broke out in the crowd.
“Hey, careful. You guys say that out loud, they’re gonna try to arrest you for attempting to kidnap her too,” joked Henry. The chants continued.
One activist – who identified herself only by her Twitter handle “@DRLNGNIKIDRTMND” said she came “from Flint just to come and stand in the name of freedom and represent the American Patriot Council and doing what I can to knock the commies and the socialists back to where they came from, in a heartbeat.”
“Today was a huge success here in Allendale and around the country for the nation-wide Freedom March,” Kelley told News2share following the rally. “We were gathered here and across the country peacefully for the love of America, the love of our constitution, and for freedom for everyone.”
Following the arrests of individuals involved in the alleged plot weeks ago, the APC released a statement condemning political violence.
“It has come to our attention that some other groups have allegedly plotted violence and lawlessness, so, we feel it necessary to tell our members, followers, and viewers that The American Patriot Council believes in law and order across the board and that no American citizen should be deprived of their right to due process of law,” they said. “We have no affiliation with any other groups, nor will we aid or abet anyone using threats or acts of violence. Please take note that we are on the side of law enforcement. To this point we have not been made aware of any plans of violence and we believe our members and followers to be patriots.”
While the APC statement condemning violence is displayed prominently on their website, another tab displays a “criminal watch list.”
The tab comes complete with a map displaying the locations of several politicians the APC accuses of criminal activity, complete with a chart listing their names, positions, and claimed violations of the constitution. At the time of publication, the list includes 15 entries, including several Democratic governors.
Kelley has previously organized a counter-protest against Justice for Black Lives activists who organized for the removal of a Confederate war monument in Allendale.