As commuters traveled through downtown Belding last Tuesday, they may have been surprised by what they saw: Dozens of community members from Belding and neighboring communities silently and steadily marching with signs along the sidewalk near Belding City Hall. Their mission? To get former police officer Jason Cooper rehired to the Belding Police Department.
Cooper was let go from his job as the result of an alleged altercation at the Grattan Irish Pub on Oct. 11. Details of his dismissal are cloudy and rumors plentiful, but the case is headed to arbitration, where both the city and Cooper will have their opportunities to present their sides.
Mayor Ron Gunderson may have said it best Tuesday evening when he told residents gathered for the city council meeting to let the process “run its course.”
While there are too many unknowns at this time to support one side or the other, we do applaud residents for peacefully expressing their support of a member of their community who they feel has been treated unfairly.
There was no mob banging on the doors of city hall, no back-and-forth shouting matches between opposing sides, no disruption of city services. What occurred instead was a silent protest by supporters who did little to disturb those around them, but made sure their message was received.
Nearby, Lombardo’s Pizzeria even opened its doors to offer free food and beverages for those who made the back-and-forth trek along Bridge Street. Traffic may have been stopped occasionally as picketers crossed the street, but they did so as quickly as possible and always at a crosswalk.
Even when Grand Rapids news stations rolled into town, supporters elected to have their spokespeople do the talking rather than seeking out their own personal 15 seconds of fame. And when only 40 people could enter the city council meeting, the majority of picketers left in the lobby or outside the building remained calm. They were absolutely upset, but allowed spokesman Dan Blunt to deliver their message to council members without incident. It can be assured that the message was well-received, as it was delivered in as peaceful a way as possible.
Regardless of whether or not you believe Cooper should be reinstated to the department, there is one thing everyone should be able to agree on: The people of Belding got it right in finding a way to showcase their cause without creating any additional problems.
Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.