In Big Rapids, Vivek Ramaswamy looks for a campaign boost from anti-Gotion rally ⋆
Emerging from behind a tractor and under the watchful eyes of two large Friesian horses, GOP presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy dove into a conversation that has divided a community and turned neighbors against each other.
At a Wednesday evening rally near Big Rapids, Ramaswamy joined local activists in decrying the forthcoming construction of the Gotion battery manufacturing plant in Green Township that’s been opposed by many Michigan Republicans. The event took place at Brock’s Majestic Friesians, a horse farm that neighbors the proposed development.
Ramaswamy centered his speech around protecting the U.S. economy from any infiltration by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“Over my dead body will that come here to the United States of America,” Ramaswamy said. “We will not let our children become Chinese serfs.”
Lori Brock, whose farm hosted the rally, addresses the crowd. She said she was “beyond thrilled” to welcome Vivek Ramaswamy on Oct. 4, 2023 | Lily Guiney
Lori Brock, the farm’s owner, has become an outspoken critic of the plant, citing concerns about Chinese communist influence over Gotion and its parent company. She said she was “beyond thrilled” to have Ramaswamy visit and speak in support of the cause to which she’s dedicated the last several months of her life.
“The Gotion project not only threatens our environment, but the company’s direct ties to the Chinese Communist Party are a national security threat to our very freedoms, and we all need to protect those,” Brock said. “This is why you see all the signs in our area that say “choose freedom,” because that is really the choice that we’re facing.”
The Gotion project, which received support from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and members of the Democratic legislative majority in the state, is slated to cost around $2.36 billion and would create 2,000 jobs paying more than $60,000 in individual salaries, according to the company.
Gotion’s board consists of one-third German, one-third American and one-third Chinese members. Asian-American leaders in Michigan have expressed frustration and concern that the anti-China rhetoric regarding Gotion could lead to harassment or discrimination against members of their community across the state.
For Ramaswamy, who 538’s most recent polling puts at fourth place in the Republican primary field, communities like Big Rapids represent a key sect of voters who loyally supported former president Donald Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, but who share many of Ramaswamy’s policy stances. 63% of Mecosta County votes were cast for Trump in 2020, an increase from 59% in 2016.
Despite facing 91 state and federal felony charges in four jurisdictions, Trump is leading the 2024 primary field.
Brock said that she currently supports Ramaswamy, but would be glad to welcome any of the other GOP candidates to her farm.
Republican presidential candidates (L-R), former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and North Dakota governor Doug Burgum participate in the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by FOX News at the Fiserv Forum on August 23, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
“I would absolutely want them to visit,” Brock said, “if it will help our cause.”
Aside from frontrunner Trump, Ramaswamy is trailing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. The rest of the primary field includes former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, radio host Larry Elder, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd.
In his hour-long speech, Ramaswamy made several false statements about the spread of COVID-19 and Gotion’s ties to the CCP, claiming that the virus was manufactured in Chinese labs and released maliciously and that Gotion employees are forced to say a “pledge of allegiance” to communist leadership in China.
Ramaswamy said that many of the problems Americans face today can be traced to either “wokeism” on the left or to Chinese interference in U.S. policy.
“The top objective of the next U.S. president has to be to declare independence from communist China,” Ramaswamy said. “That is the Declaration of Independence that Thomas Jefferson would have signed if he were alive today. That is the Declaration of Independence that I will sign as your next president.”
Gotion’s vice president for North American operations, Chuck Thelen, wrote in a Detroit News op-ed over the summer that he had never heard anyone within the company discuss communism or reference a pro-communist ideology.
GOP presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy addresses the crowd in Big Rapids. In his speech, Ramaswamy decried decisions made by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan’s Democratic legislature regarding the Gotion plant, Oct. 4, 2023 | Lily Guiney
For the Green Township residents who oppose the plant, however, that promise isn’t enough.
Mecosta Environmental and Security Alliance (MESA) president Jason Kruse said that voter mobilization in local elections this year will display the township’s disapproval of the project.
“We’re going to find out exactly how the community fair feels about this Gotion project and the way our township board handled themselves through this project on Nov. 7,” Kruse said.
MESA, which was founded in June 2023 to oppose the Gotion development, has led the charge to recall members of the Green Twp. government who green-lit construction on the plant. Kruse said its goal is two-pronged — protecting the landscape in Mecosta County and protecting the people from China.
Ramaswamy echoed a common fear among those who oppose the Gotion plant — that a company with Chinese influence will irreparably alter the culture and community in Mecosta County.
“They realize they can use our money to get us to be more like them,” Ramaswamy said of the CCP.
Attendees cheer as Vivek Ramaswamy denounces the Chinese Communist Party at Brock’s farm. Ramaswamy said his first act if elected president would be to “declare independence from China.”, Oct. 4, 2023 | Lily Guiney
Audience members look on as Jason Kruse, president of the Mecosta Environmental and Security Alliance, introduces Vivek Ramaswamy at Brock’s farm. Kruse’s organization was founded in June to oppose the development of the Gotion plant, Oct. 4, 2023 | Lily Guiney
Audience members take photos and video as Vivek Ramaswamy begins his speech at Brock’s farm. Approximately 200 people attended the rally in Big Rapids on Oct. 4, 2023 | Lily Guiney
An attendee positions “No Go on Gotion” yard signs at Brock’s Majestic Friesians. The proposed battery manufacturing plant in Green Township has fractured the local community as neighbors take sides, Oct. 4, 2023 | Lily Guiney
Community members show off signs as they wait for the arrival of presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. Ramaswamy joined a rally against the Gotion battery manufacturing plant in Big Rapids on Oct. 4, 2023 | Lily Guiney
He said that investments in electric vehicle technology championed by President Joe Biden are increasing American dependence on China, and thus leaving communities like Big Rapids vulnerable to communist influence.
“We’re not just subsidizing EVs,” Ramaswamy said. “We are subsidizing the CCP, because those EVs require batteries made in China and made by China across the street from here.”
For Brock, who said she’s received support from clients and other farmers in her fight against Gotion, what’s at stake is the very fabric of her hometown.
“I believe in our home, our community and our nation that is worth fighting for,” Brock said. “You see, this isn’t a fight against the factory. It’s a fight to preserve our way of life.”
authored by Lily Guiney
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