Protesters target “Bridge Baron” Matty Moroun, worth $1.8 billion
By Diane Bukowski
Oct. 30, 2011
DETROIT – “We stopped international trade from happening,” Rev. Charles Williams III shouted over his bullhorn as more than a hundred protesters from Bridge Watch, Occupy Detroit, Good Jobs Now, the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, the UAW and AFSCME massed in front of a long line of semi-trucks at the Ambassador Bridge Oct. 27.
“Matty Moroun just came in and took a piece of public property,” Williams said. “He bought off the politicians and the state legislators. But this shows what we can do together to stop him and the rest of them!”
Williams is pastor of the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church and a long-time community activist. Moroun is owner of the Ambassador Bridge, with a net worth of $1.8 billion according to Forbes magazine and a network of companies that spans the world.
“We did it! We stopped them!” shouted one woman, pointing above to the arch of the bridge, where trucks stood motionless on one side. Protesters carried several large effigies of Moroun and chanted, “Moroun is a criminal! Lock him up! Lock him up!”
One protester called out, “We’re tired of trucks in our neighborhood and asthma in our children from the exhaust!”
Twenty protesters were prepared to face arrest, according to organizers, but National Lawyers Guild members out in force to support them negotiated a truce with police. The protesters stayed for almost an hour, and left shouting, “We’ll be back! From New York to LA, Occupy the USA!”
As trucks started rolling again, many drivers loudly blew their horns in support and gave thumbs up signals.
A release from Detroit Bridgewatch said, “There is no greater sign of corporate greed than Matty Moroun, the Bridge Baron. The gross injustices his Detroit International Bridge Company has inflicted on our community include:
- Illegally occupied and stolen a city street (23rd Street) including West Jefferson
- Illegally occupied our streets, service drives such as W Grand Blvd., Fort Street, West Jefferson, and others.
- Illegally occupied our City of Detroit Riverside Park (the East half)
- The trucks in our neighborhood are unbearable. They travel past our children’s schools, parks and homes jeopardizing our public safety, our health and destroying our local streets.
- Bought and allowed the decaying of hundreds of homes, buildings and blighted lots in our neighborhood.
- Illegally erected the beginning of a second span without the appropriate environmental studies and permitting by the federal government. “
Protesters said they were inspired by the Occupy Wall Street takeover of the Brooklyn Bridge last month, during which 700 marchers massed across the span were taken into custody by New York Police.
James Hunter, representing the Sugar Law Center and the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, and others were wearing yellow T-shirts demanding “Community Benefit Agreements.”
Hunter, previously a long-time City of Detroit worker and AFSCME local president, said it is time for the labor movement and the community to come together for the benefit of all, along with fighting Moroun.
“Everyone is clamoring for jobs,” Hunter said. “We want the other corporate bosses to provide good jobs with benefits , including environmental clean-up and providing good homes for our families. We are here on the southwest side, where some of the most downtrodden, forgotten folks in Detroit live in crumbling houses. There is plenty of work to be done.”
This was not the first time southwest residents have taken direct action against Moroun. In June, they mobilized to tear down a fence that he had erected blocking off part of Riverside Park next to the bridge. The park is a favorite spot for people to come to enjoy the river and bridge views, fish and relax in their cars and on picnic benches.
Moroun is a long-time player on the Detroit political scene, lining the pockets of mayors, city council members and others with campaign contributions amounting to bribes. He has been running television ads fighting the construction of a second span across the river by the Michigan Department of Transportation. The ads claim a second span is not needed, but in fact Moroun wants to build his own private second bridge to gain the profits from bridge fares and sales.
Click on http://borderculture2009.blogspot.com/2010/03/matty-moroun-climbs-forbes-richest-list.html to read Windsor Star article on Moroun’s wealth. He has a net worth of $1.8 billion and is the 556th richest person in the world, according to Forbes Magazine.
The Star article says Moroun is battling to maintain his monopoly over the Detroit River border crossing, including the Ambassador Bridge, which handles 25 percent of the commerce between the U.S. and Canada, 8,000 trucks a days, and $100 billion worth of goods each years.
“The secretive Moroun for decades has guarded his financial holdings behind an array of private companies, so his true wealth has always been difficult for Forbes and others to determine,” said the Star.
“A 2006 Windsor Star investigation revealed he owns a wide variety of businesses: insurance companies, logistics firms, railways, air cargo companies, constructions firms, about 25 real estate companies and dozens of trucking companies on both sides of the border. His empire stretches to nearly every corner of the world with shipping connections in Australia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, China and Japan. His trucking interests include companies and affiliates across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.”
For more info email: DetroitBridgewatch@gmail.com