Big Rapids was packed with protesters Wednesday as they voiced their opinions against the proposed Gotion electric vehicle battery plant.
The State and Gotion claim the plant will create thousands of jobs and bring billions of dollars of investment to the Big Rapids Area. They say it will also give Michigan an edge in the future of the electric vehicle industry. The plant has been a source of controversy locally and nationally since it was announced last year because of the company’s ties to China.
People lined the street outside Ferris State University in Big Rapids to protest the proposed battery plant as well as local township boards.
“They said the other day if we didn’t want them in our community they would leave. So, we’re trying to make a point by saying we want you to leave. Get out Gotion,” one protester at Wednesday’s rally demands.
The Green Township Board hosted a panel discussion featuring representatives from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Consumers Energy, the County Road Commission and the Dean of Ferris State. The panel was designed to allow experts to answer the public’s questions and concerns.
The discussion was originally supposed to happen at Williams Auditorium but was moved to virtual after protests were announced.
The Supervisor of Green Lake Township, Jim Chapman, says the decision to move the meeting virtual was made out of an abundance of caution.
“You get that many people in one room with all their sings there’s going to be someone that has to stand up and shout, somebody who has to wave a sign,” Chapman explains. “So, this is a way that everyone can hear it in the privacy of their own home and get the answers.”
Hundreds of protesters were in Big Rapids to voice their opposition. There were even some State Representatives who joined them. Representatives Joseph Fox, Steve Carra and Angela Rigas were at Wednesday’s protest.
“The people of this area feel like their local government is not listening to them. So, we’re here today to support them to help them use their voice,” Representative Rigas states.
Representative Joseph Fox of the 101st District says he shares concerns with the protesters and should be something the whole state is paying attention to.
“The proposed plant is sitting very close to the Muskegon River and the Muskegon River runs all the way through Newaygo County. So, if anything happens here we will get the results. So will Muskegon County and so will Lake Michigan,” Representative Fox claims.
A former Republican candidate for Michigan Governor and current candidate for the 2024 presidential race, Perry Johnson, stopped by the rally to talk with protesters and share some of his concerns.
“The number one problem we have is with China and we’re giving them billions of dollars to come and build a big factory. Can we at least go with an American company or at least one of our allies,” Johnson asks.
The supervisor of Green Township says he just wants what’s best for the community. However, many of the protesters say the same.
“It turned into instead of Pure Michigan, pure greed. what’s our legacy for our kids, is it employment or is it saving this precious land that we live in,” says a protester.