Allendale township board will not pursue vandalism charges


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Audrey Whitaker, News Editor

The Allendale Township Board has decided to discontinue the prosecution against protestors who violated local ordinances involving a controversial Civil War statue in the Veterans Garden of Honor.

“After thorough consideration, the Board also concluded that the number of trials that will be required to prosecute the violations will have minimal impact on justice, but will instead create more divisiveness while not adding anything constructive or new to the conversation,” Adam Elenbaas, Allendale Charter Township Supervisor said.

Demonstrations against the statue were sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained traction across the US in May of 2020 following the death of George Floyd. Statues depicting Confederate soldiers were vandalized, removed and protested against in cities throughout the nation.

Following calls to remove the statue, Allendale’s Board of Trustees formed a special committee to address the community’s demands regarding the statue.

Charges were filed earlier this year, following incidents in early January. Activists from several groups, including the Michigan Association of Civil Rights and Justice for Black Lives, used cornstarch to “tar and feather” part of the statue, which depicts a Confederate soldier. There were several other protests both for and against the removal of the statue. In another incident, the face of the Union soldier was painted with clown makeup and the Confederate soldier’s face was broken.

The decision to drop the charges was made at the Sept. 27 Allendale Township Board meeting, Elenbaas said.

“Allendale’s Township Board analyzed the cases and has made the decision to discontinue the prosecution,” Elenbaas said in a statement. “The Township’s viewpoint is that the primary aspect of the statue controversy was whether or not the statue would remain in its current location.”

The Allendale Board of Trustees voted 5-2 to keep the statue at a meeting in June.

Elenbaas said that while discussion regarding the statue has continued in the Allendale community, no new demonstrations or information have entered the debate.

“There’s not a whole lot of new information that people are bringing on, they’re just rearticulating ‘this is what I believe’ and I can respect that,” Elenbaas said. “But again, there’s not really any new or constructive information that we haven’t heard already coming out of it.”

Elenbaas said that with this decision, the board is choosing to focus on other important issues in the community, rather than further division and negativity.

While discussion surrounding the statue has largely subsided since the summer, Elenbaas does not believe this decision will spark further demonstrations.

“There are people that are going to agree in their people, they’re going to disagree with a decision. Ultimately the township board believes that this is the best decision for where we are right now,” Elenbaas said. “So if something happens going forward, we’ll have to reevaluate.”