Benton Harbor, Michigan, Rick Snyder — May 9, 2011 at 7:15 am

Guest photoblog from Anne Savage: Benton Harbor parade protest


This blog entry was written by my wife, Anne. Anne is a fantastic photographer (as I frequently mention) and runs two blogs. Her first is The Savage Feast, a blog about food, gardening, eating & drinking, and enjoying the “foodie” lifestyle. Her most recent project is the Anne Savage Photography Politics in Pictures blog. This is where her political photography finds a home. It’s a new site so there’s lots more to come and I highly encourage you to check it out.

What follows is Anne’s perspective of the Blossomtime parade on Saturday that started in St. Joseph, Michigan and finished in Benton Harbor – a story told less with words than pictures. Governor Rick Snyder was the Grand Marshal so he led the parade.

There are two bridges right next to each other that cross the St. Joseph River, separating the two cities. This quarter mile stretch was the only empty spot on the parade route with only a handful of people along this section. You’ll see this a couple of Anne’s photos, a sort of demilitarized zone. It was during this section where Governor Snyder and his entourage of security and police separated from the next group in the parade, the fantastic Benton Harbor marching band, putting a 10-minute gap between them and the kids.

It was very clear that they were expecting trouble in Benton Harbor, trouble they never got. The protesters were peaceful and the residents of Benton Harbor showed little animosity toward the Governor. They almost seemed caught up in a drama had little to do with them and their daily lives. Nonetheless, Governor Snyder and his security detail were well prepared to deal with violence that never occurred and Anne’s photos and words tell this story in a profound way.


P.S. You can see larger versions of all of these images along with more images at the Anne Savage Photography Politics in Pictures blog.

All photos copyrighted by Anne C. Savage. Please do not use without permission.

The Grand Floral Parade in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor is held on the first Saturday in May in conjunction with the Blossom Time Festival, the oldest and largest multi-community festival in the state of Michigan. It takes place on Main Street starting in St. Joseph, crossing over the bridge and ending in Benton Harbor.

According to the Blossom Time Festival website the festival was started in 1906 inspired by the regions many orchards.

Influenced by a growing agricultural industry, in 1906 Rev.W. J. Cady of the First Congregational Church in Benton Harbor was the first to urge his parishioners to drive through the orchards and view the fruit blossoms. Cady termed them “symbols of life renewed” and his sermon is credited with the birth of the Blossomtime Festival.

Governor Rick Snyder will head up the procession as grand marshal with an honor guard from the Berrien County Sheriffs Department and the Berrien County Mounted Division. Also scheduled to take part in the parade are U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph; state Rep. Sharon Tyler, R-Niles; and state Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville.

Chris (Eclectablog) and I got to Benton Harbor around noon, parked in Benton Harbor and walk the parade route to the start of the parade in St. Joseph. On our walk, we observed a few things. First of all, there were a ridiculous amount of police cars and officers blocking the roads to the Benton Harbor parade route. I only saw one police car in St. Joseph at one of the road blocks to the parade route. All the other roads were blocked by the standard barricades.

Right before crossing the two bridges over to St. Joseph were a few hundred, mostly white, mostly union, and mostly dressed in red, protesters. That appeared to be the largest gathering of protesters along the route. There were a few other spots with small groups of protesters holding signs.

The Parade began at 1:00 p.m. and it started with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Motorcycle Drill Team followed by three cars, two of which were police cars, and then Governor Snyder’s group. He was walking with two bodyguards. The three of them were walking behind two officers on motorcycles and two girls caring a sign that read “Grand Marshal Honorable Governor Rick Snyder” and a traditional color guard. Following the governor was one police officer and a black SUV. What I observed as I followed the Governor through the 1.8 mile parade route was pretty offensive, in my opinion.

Follow me through the images to see what I observed as I walked (more like ran) the route along with Governor Snyder. He walked the nearly 2 mile route in 39 minutes. No time was wasted, no hands shaken, no real stops, nothing but a fast steady walk that ended in quick disappearance, at the end of the parade, into the black SUV. The end happened so fast that I was unable to get a photograph of him getting into the car.

Several police officers gathered at the Main St. and Riverview Rd. in Benton Harbor shortly after crossing the bridge. Although I was unsure of why there were so many there I will come to find out later.

The next two photos show the protesters gathering on the north side of the bridge on the Benton Harbor side of the parade route. They were mostly white and their signs and shirts showed that they were mostly union protesters.

Typical parade barricade and parade watchers on the St. Joseph end of the route. It felt and looked very much like any parade. People in chairs and on blankets with lots of children and the wonderful smells that you would smell at a festival.

My first view of the Governor.

This photograph shows all of the protection he had with him on the first half of the parade route in St. Joseph. Two bodyguards, two motorcycle cops, one on foot and the SUV. He was all smiles during the first half of the parade and waved a lot. A few shouts from the crowed, “great job, Governor. Keep up the good work!” and frequent applause. I could hear the marching bands following.

We leave St. Joseph and descend across the bridge to Benton Harbor. As he makes his way across, I see a few golf carts driven by more police officers begin to approach the Governor and his entourage.

Here is the view facing north as I am coming to the end of the bridge into Benton Harbor. Just about everyone in the next stretch are the union protesters all standing and all very vocal. I start hearing the shouts and chants of the protesters calling for the recall of Governor Snyder.

Union (and other) protesters with their backs to the Governor as he passes, sober-faced and looking forward.

Remember the officers from the first image? Well, this is where they peel into the parade, at Riverview Dr. past the protesters and before entering the main part of downtown Benton Harbor where parade-goers were set up to see the parade.

You can see the people in the crowd watching the parade. Not really any protesters except a few dozen who are running along the sidewalks following the Governor after he passed them at the beginning of the Benton Harbor route. I just find it offensive that the security wasn’t really ramped up until after the main group of protesters but for the rest of the route which appeared to me to be regular folks, there to see the parade — only this time mostly black.

His now super large entourage of security closes in to him and looks as if they are on high alert. You can see a few of the union protesters in the back following along on the sidewalk.

Not looking so much like a parade, is it?

Here is a good image showing all the other police vehicles lining the streets around the Governor in addition to the two golf carts.

Just about at the end here. By the end of the Benton Harbor part of the parade there were 10-12 walking Berrien County police officers, several state police officers on motorcycle, several police-driven golf carts and a few four wheelers. I found it very offensive that they felt the need for such a tight and secure barrier around Governor Rick Snyder as he walked through Benton Harbor.

For more and larger photos, visit the Anne Savage Photography Politics in Pictures blog.