On Saturday, Oct. 24, supporters of President Donald Trump gathered for a patriot rally drive-through celebration of the incumbent leader behind City Hall in Allendale as part of the ‘National Freedom March.’
Filled with ‘Make America Great Again’ flags, shirts, hats and more, attendees showed their pride for President Trump as they drove through, and more gathered following the drive-through to hear from local speakers on stage. There were kids, adults, students and grandparents in attendance, with many choosing to forgo wearing a mask or practice social distancing.
The rally’s featured speakers included Katherine Henry, the founder of the Restore Freedom Initiative and the owner and lead attorney of Katherine Henry PC law firm, as well as Ryan Kelley, a member of Allendale’s Township’s planning commission.
In her speech, Henry defended protestors who went to the Lansing capitol building to express their dissent over the COVID-19 regulations that Governor Gretchen Whitmer has imposed, and also called for the freeing of the Null brothers, William and Michael, who were Allendale locals arrested in connection with the kidnapping plot against Governor Whitmer that was foiled earlier this month.
“I don’t care what any of those guys have done as far as what the court of public opinion and mainstream media is trying to do to them,” Henry said. “I can tell you that not a single one of you would ever want to be locked up and thrown away without ever having your day in court, without ever having the right to properly defend yourself.”
The statement was followed with Henry citing that Governor Whitmer is still waking free, despite many people’s anger with her recent decisions. The statement was followed by cheers of “lock her up” from many attendees. Henry then went on to explain some things that attendees should remember, including that God gave the people their rights, not the government, and that it is the government’s duty to protect those rights.
Henry’s firm has created the Restore Freedom Initiative and a subsequent petition with the goal of reining in power the government has taken, prevent future abuses of power by the governor, legislature and courts, even in times of crisis, war or emergency, and restoring Michigan to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
During her speech at the rally, Henry called on attendees to hold their local and state government accountable for stripping away their rights with regulations. She highlighted the fact that paying attention to what the constitution says and allows is important, and that the government has been ignoring its authority. In her closing statements, Henry encouraged attendees to educate themselves on the Michigan constitutions and what liberties and freedoms they protect, and hold governmental officials accountable.
“There are a lot of laws that are unconstitutional, like the garbage that they just past this last week,” Henry said. “The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and if the state or federal constitution does not give the right to act in a certain way, then they can’t do it, period. I don’t care who they are, what political party they belong to – they need to answer to we the people. We should not have to ask permission to live our lives.”
The rally’s second speaker was Kelley, who brought energy and family values to the table, highlighting the anger and censoring that Trump supporters have faced both on and offline for expressing their views and practicing their rights.
“Today is a very special day for America because we have something going on all over the place and we have had many forces working against us,” Kelley said. “Facebook has taken our event page down and has deleted so many people’s pages. They are censoring your voice, my voice, and all of the voices that love America. But, what disheartens us does not stop us, and the things that we know are right we continue to fight for.”
Kelley went on to encourage supporters to sign the petition created by Henry, and to encourage attendees to continue speaking out, disparaging Governor Whitmer’s decisions at the same time. He also gave a special thanks to the many “militia men and women” that attended the rally and march, highlighting his belief that they are peaceful people that love America.
“We know that you guys and gals are peaceful, we know that you love this country, and we know that you stand united with us,” Kelley said. “We know that you are pro-law enforcement, pro-constitution, pro-government, pro-law and order, and we appreciate you.”
Kelley has been under scrutiny for his supposed relationship with a militia member charged last week in connection to an alleged plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer. On October 12, Allendale Township Supervisor Adam Elenbaas said that Kelley would not be removed from his position on the township’s planning commission, even after calls by community members and local organizations requesting his ousting. Kelley previously admitted to FOX17 earlier this month that he briefly met William Null, and possibly his brother Michael, at a rally in Allendale earlier this year, but says the relationship never extended beyond that setting.
The Patriot Rally also drew another group of local protesters who were there calling for Kelley’s removal. The group held signs and chanted for his removal, referring to him as “KKKelley,” and chanting for the removal of confederate statues in the area with the chant “rise up, take it down.” The protest was sponsored by Justice for Black Lives, a local non-profit organization founded in Grand Rapids that focuses on making legislative and community-based changes for people of color.
The protest featured a number of speakers, including leaders from Justice for Black lives who urged people not to be complacent with the racism that is present in Allendale and the rest of the country today, and highlighted that slavery has existed for hundreds of years, and will continue to exist if not fought.
“Let’s not be tricked into this illusion of thinking that because racism and capitalism have always been a present force in our lifetime that this must be how it is,” one speaker said. “The shoulders that I stand on have 100 years of slavery behind then, and another 250 years of slavery in front of them… I don’t have the right to give up. I won’t stop, I can’t stop and I am demanding justice now. Justice for Black Lives Matter wants Ryan Kelley removed from the planning board now, we have been calling for his removal all summer and they say our voices are heard, yet he still sits on the board.”
Another attendee and speaker at the protest was GVSU global studies and political science student and activist Phoebe Risk, who led a chant about the fact that Black lives should matter in Allendale and everywhere else – but specifically in Allendale, many feel that local politicians don’t prioritize them or care about their safety.
“Do Black lives matter? Yes,” Risk said during her speech. “Do Black lives matter in Allendale? Yes. Do politicians (in Allendale) think so? No. Does Ryan Kelley think so? No. I learned from my time studying abroad in Senegal West Africa about the importance of community, and that even someone doesn’t look like you, even if they don’t speak like you, if they don’t think like you, they still matter. If you are an Allendale resident, you belong here, and if you are not an Allendale resident you belong here, and what we are fighting for is important.”
Later in her speech, she also highlighted the issue of redlining in Allendale, which is the systematic denial of various services by federal government agencies, local governments as well as the private sector either directly or through the selective raising of prices. Minority communities have been directly affected by this in many rural areas and cities across the United States. The most well-known examples of redlining have involved denial of financial services such as banking or insurance. Redlining was particularly present during the housing crises of 1933.
The counter protestors remained at Allendale City hall for the rest of the America Patriot Rally, chanting and rotating various speakers from the area. Despite a few bitter words shared in passing by attendees from the separate rallies, no threats of violence were made and each event proceeded peacefully. While there were many firearms present, no arrests or discharges of any firearms occurred.
Following the rally’s speaker conclusion, the group marched along the road for a time with signs and flags, and then concluded. There were supporters and disapprovers of the President and his administration in attendance, and most were content with the fact that the rally resumed peacefully.
“What I’m out here doing is showing support for everyone’s future, men, women and children,” one attendee, who backs President Trump said, “I believe he will create a better future, and Biden just wants to control us.”
Another attendee, who expressed support for Biden, said that ultimately, the goal of coming together is what she wants to see, and that the division that is occurring will only get worse if we have four more years of Donald Trump, and it will continue to exist even if Joe Biden wins.
“Honestly, we’re going to need to work together to better America no matter who is in the White House in November,” she said. “I attended today because I want to show my support for my candidate, but I also want to hear from people on the other side so that I know what their values are, and can hopefully work with them, not against them, to make good change for all of us moving forward. All of this hate and divisiveness has to stop, I know it won’t ever go away fully, but we can start doing something about it right now by having hard discussions about important issues.”