EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A bat-brandishing grandmother who faced off with marchers in Michigan on Wednesday said she has no regrets.
“I just simply stated, you know, ‘You’re not going to burn down East,'” said Karla Anderson, 75.
Demonstrators marching to protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement were peaceful throughout the night.
They started in downtown Grand Rapids late Wednesday afternoon and were walking east when they encountered Anderson around 8:15 pm. She was standing in the middle of the road holding a baseball bat.
“Leave her alone. Leave her alone,” shouted a protestor, video posted online shows.
As one marcher tried to take the bat away from Anderson, another put his arms around her to try to diffuse the situation. The encounter lasted less than a minute and ended without injury.
After most of the march moved on, a couple of protesters continued a tense conversation with Anderson.
“Who are you? Do you live here?’ Anderson asked them.
“Yes, born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan,” a young man responded.
“No, (are you from) East Grand Rapids?” Anderson asked.
At that point, a man came over and told the protesters to leave the grounds of Anderson’s condo complex, which is private property.
“We wouldn’t be here if she didn’t come out with an f—ing baseball bat,” one of the young men replied before leaving.
Anderson on Thursday explained why she brought a baseball bat.
“Just to show that I was willing to defend East,” she replied.
She said she would have used the bat if she’d been attacked. She also said she believed Antifa, the far-left group known for violent confrontations, was involved in the march.
There is no evidence of Antifa’s involvement.
After being reminded that no destruction occurred as a result of the protests, Anderson suggested that was because East Grand Rapids police are “great” and had it “pretty well-controlled.”
“This (march) is not about Black Lives Matter. This is about racial division, OK? This is about keeping things stirred up,” she said, referring to Antifa’s alleged tactics.
“I’m not afraid. I have grandchildren and I would do anything to keep East the way it is, so children can walk around and ride their bikes. That’s the kind of childhood I had,” Anderson said.
According to census records, East Grand Rapids, a wealthy enclave southeast of Grand Rapids, is 94.6% white.
“You think it’s white? You know, I have two Mexican-American children. My cousin has two biracial, and my nephew’s married to an Asian. We’re about like the United Nations,” Anderson said.
When asked about white police killing black people in America, she said, “I don’t really have anything to say about that. I look at facts, data and statistics.”
Regarding the video of the Minneapolis police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, she said, “Yeah, but the one that really got me worse was the police captain who was bleeding on the street. That was the worst one to watch.” She was referring to the retired police captain who was shot and killed in St. Louis early Tuesday morning while responding to an alarm at a pawn shop.
Anderson has spoken her mind publicly before. In early March, she argued against allowing marijuana businesses in East Grand Rapids.
“We might just as well pimp out some prostitutes,” Anderson told the East Grand Rapids City Commission at the time.
After Wednesday’s incident, East Grand Rapids Mayor Katie Favale denounced Anderson’s actions.
“Overall, yesterday’s protest was peaceful, which I believe reflects the true spirit of East Grand Rapids,” Favale wrote in a statement. “Chief (Mark) Herald welcomed the group to our community, walking alongside them to create a dialogue and build trust. As we all work to build a more fair and equitable society, I hope this one incident doesn’t distract from the positive progress that has been made.”