100K people, 100K signatures for Detroit
Coalition circulates petition against bankruptcy
By Zenobia Jeffries
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Rainbow PUSH and the Michigan Democratic Party Black Caucus have partnered to launch the Change.org initiative to encourage unity against Detroit Emergency Manger Kevyn Orr’s bankruptcy filing.The bankruptcy hearing begins Oct. 23.
U.S. Judge Stephen Rhodes will determine whether or not the city will go through the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy.
The coalition is asking Detroiters, Michiganders and American citizens nationwide to “pull their voices together” and speak out against the disenfranchisement happening to over 50 percent of Michigan’s African American population.
At a press conference Oct. 17, the coalition made an appeal for 100 thousand people to sign the petition to make the statement, “we will not allow ourselves to be exploited.”
Economist, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of the education arm of Rainbow PUSH said she was drawn to what is happening in Detroit because of the number of retirees threatened with the loss of their pensions.
Malveaux said over 100 cities across the country could be impacted by what’s happening in Detroit, if the city does indeed go through bankruptcy.
“The petition does not override the issues,” Dr. Malveaux said. “It pulls our voices together. People around the country are not being heard. Signing the petition says our voices are together.”
Al Garrett, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said he was excited about the gathering because it included people outside of the union.
“It’s not the unions speaking out but others because promises were made with regard to our pension, our benefits, our heath care,” Garrett said. “Promises made, ought to be kept.”
Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, who attended the press conference called what was happening in Detroit a “seizure of the city of Detroit and employees benefits and wages.”
Councilwoman Brenda Jones, who also attended warned that what’s happening in Detroit is not far from other cities throughout the country.
“It’s happening here now, but tomorrow it’ll be you,” Jones said. “Because if they can do it here, they will take it elsewhere. An injustice to one is an injustice to all.”
Jones also lamented over the fight for democracy in Detroit and Michigan against the state’s emergency manager law that led to the EM bankruptcy filing.
“We have fought so hard and so long for democracy,” she said.
Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of Rainbow PUSH called what’s happening in Detroit “unconscionable.”
“This is the most undemocratic assault that could be perpetrated by this governor,” he said.
Although Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit Chapter NAACP, who attended the conference, did not speak, he later told the Michigan Citizen, the oldest civil right’s group is not so much focused on the bankruptcy filing as they are on the loss of civil and democratic rights.
“We are not focused on bankruptcy. We’re focused in on the lack of democracy as it relates to all of Michigan citizens,” Anthony said. “We are for our right to vote and to elect our own public officials. We want the right to elect our mayor, our city council, our senators, our governors. And if they’re not doing the job, the people should be the ones to remove them by the regular democratic process.”
Anthony said before even entertaining the issue of “bankruptcy” the issue of the people’s loss to have their elected officials represent them is most important.
“It should not be up to a governor or a lame duck session of the senate and the house to go around the people, and to say we know better than you how to run a democracy and therefore your vote does not count. You cannot overlook the fact that 2.3 million Michiganders voted no on this usurpation of democracy and that we in the cities of Detroit, Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Flint … and over 50 percent of the African Americans in Michigan live under one-person rule.
Anthony, who called what’s happening in Michigan “anti-democratic and a violation of citizens’ voting rights,” said he hope Judge Rhodes will allow the lawsuit filed by the Detroit branch earlier this year to go forward.
“And that we will not be victimized by a state which is currently the case in terms of bankruptcy hearings. We should not be in bankruptcy court because we are not talking about bankruptcy. We’re talking about civil rights, we’re talking about voting rights and those are civil rights and constitutional issues that have no place in the court of bankruptcy but in the court of democracy.”
Councilwoman JoAnn Watson who also voiced her support for the petition, did not attend the conference, but stated in a press release, “There are alternatives to bankruptcy to be discussed.”
Garrett asked that all able bodies join the coalition at the Federal courthouse in downtown Detroit on the first day of the hearing, Oct. 23.
To sign the petition or for more information visit www.Change.org and type in Bankruptcy in Detroit.