The video above shows what organizers called the beginning of “Occupy Detroit” outside Cadillac Place, where Gov. Snyder’s Detroit office is, and where protesters have been fighting the cruel cut-offs of 50,000 (and counting) people including children and babies from public assistance every Thursday at noon.
By Diane Bukowski
October 11, 2011
DETROIT – People of all ages, sexes and races poured into the City of Hope Church near Grand River and Trumbull Oct. 11 to bring Detroit into the occupation movement that has spread like wildfire across the country, beginning Sept. 17 with Occupy Wall Street.
The Detroit assemply decided by consensus that the occupation of Detroit would begin Friday, Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center on Woodward at the foot of Jefferson. Participants will then march at 6 p.m. to set up their base in Grand Circus Park.
The park is presided over by a statue of 19th century Detroit Mayor Hazen Pingree, “the first to warn the people of the power of the private corporations,” according to an inscription on its base.
“This is the first time in years where we have had an opportunity for class unity, the first time we should be able to join together to stop the welfare cut-offs and the Wall Street bail-outs,” Maureen Taylor, president of the Michigan Welfare Rights Association, cried out during the assembly.
U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to be in the Detroit area the same day, visiting the Ford Wixom plant with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. South Korean trade unionists have struck and held mass rallies to protest their government’s anti-labor policies.
Occupy Detroit has now been endorsed by the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, a hopeful indication that the labor movement will come out in force to support it. Currently, Ford rank-and-file workers are fighting a proposed contract. (See article below.)
The excitement in the air was palpable. Organizers estimated the turn-out for Occupy Detroit’s first general assembly at 1,000 people, so large they re-directed participants outside to the park/playground area behind the church.
Long-time Detroit activist Abiyomi Azikiwe opened the rally in the church, noting it was taking place on Columbus Day.
“This is a day that we pay tribute to the indigenous people of America, and to our ancestors who were brought here in slaveships,” Azikiwe said. “Detroit was the first city to be hit by the economic crisis, and hit the hardest. The rest of the country and the world is now catching up. It is time to reclaim what is ours. We are the 99 percent, the masses who should be in control. We must retake the banks and the multinational corporations and run society on a humane truly democratic level.
Below, Danny Glover addresses Occupy L.A., raising the importance of supporting the hunger strike of 12,000 prisoners in California.
Other speakers acknowledged that members of the oppressed communities should be at the forefront of the occupation, including people of color, women, and the LGBT communities. Detroit’s population is at least 86 percent Black, and many said the success of the occupation will depend on the inclusion of rank-and-file Detroiters, particularly the youth.
“They are illegally stealing our children, and we need a committee to address that,” one woman cried out during the assembly. She referred the the thousands of families in Detroit and Michigan who have had their children kidnapped by Child Protective Services using an assembly-line court system absent any judicial oversight.
This was a concrete example of the need to address the specific problems of the people of Detroit if Occupy Detroit is to succeed.
The assembly included a large number of young white people, some who came directly from New York as representatives of the Occupy Wall Street movement. They brought with them the tools developed there, including consensus voting, hand signals, and “the people’s mike” (when mechanical mikes don’t work or the police ban bullhorns, the crowd as a whole shouts back what a apeaker either from the stage or from the audience is saying).
They also brought copies of the “Occupied Wall Street Journal” put out by the thousands of anti-corporate activists in New York, and a lot of desperately needed energy and enthusiasm.
Many of the city’s long-time activist groups were also present, hopeful that Occupy Detroit would spark a long-awaited rising up of the people in this long down-trodden, depressed city.
They included the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice, the Moratorium NOW! Coalition against Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs, and the Socialist Equality Party, which has led protests against DTE shut-offs that cost the lives of dozens of Detroiters, including toddlers, over the last year.
A member of that group called on the assembly to be as inclusive as possible, allowing broad debate from all political perspectives. Recently, many leaders of the Democratic Party have sought to piggyback on the Occupy Wall Street movement, he said, and they should not be allowed to co-opt it.
A consensus vote was taken to select Grand Circus Park as the initial base for the occupation. The Park in located in central downtown, next to Comerica Park and Ford Field, which are expected to be packed with people attending the Tigers and Lions games.
Grand Circus Park is also close to the financial district full of the banks that have created the worldwide economic meltdown being taken out on the backs of poor and working people. Not to mention that it is only a few blocks from DTE headquarters on Bagley, which recently announced rate increases and cutbacks in assistance for the poor in paying their bills.
Twelve initial committees were set up, including Outreach, Comfort, Food, Education, Information, Media, Sensitivity and Racial Inclusion, Finance, Direct Action, Name (there is a debate about other names besides Occupy Detroit), Facilitation, Child Care, Medical, Security and Legal.
For more information, according to a flier distributed Oct. 10:
Occupy Detroit: http://twitter.com/#/OccupyDetMI
Occupy the Hood: http://twitter.com/#OccupyTheHood
Monetary donations to be sent to: https://www.wepay.com/donate/17751
Physical donations to be sent to:
Workers World Party
5920 Second Ave.
Detroit, Michigan 48202
Link for protesters rights from Detroit NLG (which will be present for legal defense):
National Lawyers Guild – Detroit and Michigan Chapter
450 W. Fort St. Detroit, MI 48226