Protesters start boycott of Orr’s residence the Westin Book Cadillac, ask supporters to call hotel at 313-442-1600
By Diane Bukowski
DETROIT – Prominent Detroit activists descended on Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s current home at the West Book Cadillac July 4 to demand independence for their city and school district, and others in Michigan, most recently Hamtramck. They also called for the eviction of “Dictator” Orr not only from city government but from the swank hotel.
“These hostile takeovers are illegal, immoral and unconstitutional,” Richard Clay of the Coalition for Independence for Detroit declared. “All across the state, people voted NO to dictatorships when they repealed Public Act 4. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Republican legislators put a new bill through in the lame duck session in December. Democrats and the Black bourgeoisie in Detroit, Mayor Dave Bing, City Council members, and many ministers have done absolutely nothing to stop this.”
One of the protesters announced there will be another demonstration against the pending EM takeover of the City of Hamtramck on Mon. July 8 at 8 a.m. on Woodward Avenue. No further details were given.
Clay said the July 4 protest and a call for a boycott of the Book Cadillac, where Orr stays in an expensive suite, are the beginning of a new movement.
“We’re coming together to celebrate a NEW fight for independence,” he said. “The Westin Book Cadillac is harboring a criminal, and until they oust him, we are asking people not to stay here. We also want them not to attend events here and refuse to host any as well. We say to Kevyn Orr—your time is running out long before your statutory 18 months.”
Public Act 436, which replaced PA4, allows emergency managers to stay for 18 months, but Governor Snyder can extend that time if he wants. The act also mandates a state-controlled “transition” period after the EM leaves. Orr has announced that he plans sales or takeovers of major Detroit assets including the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, the third largest in the country, and Belle Isle, the largest public island park in the U.S. He also wants to eliminate 40 percent of Detroit’s street lights, and make major cuts to other services.
Orr claimed June 14 that he is ceasing payment on the city’s debt to many creditors in exchange. In fact, most of the city’s corporate creditors will be paid by their insurers. Instead of investigating criminal acts by those corporate creditors, Orr has instead announced an investigation of the city’s public pension funds.
Three federal lawsuits filed against Orr’s appointment by union members, the Detroit NAACP and others will be heard Aug. 8 in front of U.S. District Court Judge Steeh, according to Attorney Butch Hollowell, who represents the NAACP. He spoke at a gathering of Detroit leaders June 28, called together by Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, to denounce the U.S. Supreme Court decision gutting part of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder.
The July 4 protest drew Detroit School Board members Elena Herrada and Rev. David Murray, Elder Helen Moore of the Keep the Vote No Takeover Coalition founded in 1999 to combat the takeover of Detroit Public Schools, City Council candidate Monica Patrick and her supporters including members of Free Detroit No Consent, and Aliya Moore, president of the parents’ organization for Oakman Elementary School, which faces closures.
They chanted “No More Orr!” and What do we want—Freedom—When do we want it—NOW!” They also sang civil rights songs, including “Oh Freedom,” varying the lyrics:
“Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me . . . . No more dictators, no more dictators, no more dictators over me
And before I’ll be a slave I’ll be buried in a my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free.”
Council candidate Patrick said she and her group have been out every day in the city’s neighborhoods, including the Martin Luther King homes. One of the city’s dailies just published an article decrying crime there, but Patrick painted a different picture.
“People are hurting, and are very much aware of their disenfranchisement,” Patrick said. “But there is a major disconnect in terms of communication about protests and lawsuits that are going on to stop this attack. The Mayor has already taken away the Health Department, Workforce Development, and Human Services, and the people are feeling the effects of those losses. It is going to get worse under Orr. This is nothing but Third World devastation in our city.”
Elder Moore said, “There is no reason to celebrate the Fourth of July, because Detroit is not free, we have no democracy. Our school system has been practically destroyed by state takeovers. We are crying out today for freedom for our people, Black, white, and Latino. We don’t do second-class citizenship very well.”
She called Orr’s bus tour of Detroit’s devastated neighborhoods for its corporate creditors, which he has set for July 10, “ludicrous.”
“We all know personally that the destruction of our schools and the theft of our homes by the banks caused Detroiters’ destitution,” Moore said. “The bankers have no solutions—they only want to make it worse.”
Aliya Moore, president of the parents’ organization at Oakman Elementary School, spoke passionately about the need to stop its closure, recently announced by DPS EM Roy Roberts.
“He wants to move our children to Noble, which already has 550 students, and to Henderson, which has 915,” Moore said. “Our children are special needs students, with ailments like spina bifida, seizures, and sickle cell. Some have colostomy bags and others have to wear diapers. This school was built in 1928 for them, with handrails, full-time nurses, speech therapists and other specialists.”
Detroit city retiree Carrie Williams, formerly a staff representative for AFSCME Council 25, and her husband, a UAW retiree, who now live in Henderson, Nevada, were staying at the hotel while touring the country to visit relatives. They stopped to discuss the issues with the protesters and expressed their strong support.
Detroit City Council Candidate Monica Patrick’s website is at http://monicacares.com/.