EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The bat-brandishing senior citizen who faced off with marchers in East Grand Rapids Wednesday evening said she has no regrets.
“I just simply stated, you know, ‘You’re not going to burn down East,'” recounted Karla Anderson, 75.
The diverse group, marching to protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, was entirely peaceful throughout the night.
The demonstrators started in downtown Grand Rapids late Wednesday afternoon and were walking east on Wealthy Street east of Plymouth Avenue 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 demonstrator put his arms around her to try to diffuse any potential confrontation. The encounter lasted less than a minute and ended without injury.
After most of the march moved on, a couple individual protestors continued a tense conversation with Anderson.
“Who are you? Do you live here?’ Anderson asked them.
“Yes, born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan,” the young man responded.
“No, (are you from) East Grand Rapids?” Anderson asked.
At that point, a man came over and told the protestors 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.
Target 8 found Anderson Thursday morning and asked her why she brought a baseball bat to greet the protestors.
“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 Anita’s involvement. Target 8 pointed out that the march was peaceful and without incident throughout the night.
Still, Anderson continued to claim that protestors would vandalize East Grand Rapids the way rioters had downtown Grand Rapids on Saturday. After being reminded that no destruction occurred, 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,” Anderson told Target 8.
“This is about racial division, OK? This is about keeping things stirred up,” she claimed, 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.
Target 8 investigators asked if keeping East the way it is means keeping it white. 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 Target 8 asked if people had a right to be upset 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.”
We also asked if she’d seen the video of the Minneapolis police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck.
“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 said, 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 insisted she’s not racist.
“Don’t be peddling that crap that we’re all white racists here because that’s not true,” she said.
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 to News 8. “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. We are committed to creating a safe, welcoming environment for anyone who lives in, works in or visits East Grand Rapids.”
News 8 contacted the East Grand Rapids Department of Public Safety to find out if it had received complaints regarding the incident.
“Today, a member of the media forward the East Grand Rapids Department of Public Safety a video of an elderly women standing in the street holding a bat during the march that occurred last night in East Grand Rapids,” Chief Mark Herald wrote in a statement to News 8. “Our officers were unaware of the situation. We have reviewed the video and at this time have no victims. If anyone has information pertaining to his incident, please contact the East Grand Rapids Department of Public Safety at 949-7010.”