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Citizens march for peace and justice

Crusade for America marchers link violence to ‘bad’ policies

By Zenobia Jeffries
The Michigan Citizen

HIGHLAND PARK — “Stop the violence and save the vote” is the message Highland Park Pastor Rev. D. Alexander Bullock has set out to deliver to the masses.

“In the community, we’re affected by gun violence and in politics, we’re affected by gangster politics and bullying,” Bullock told the Michigan Citizen during his inaugural Crusade for America Parent and Youth March, Aug 25.

“I buried a 24-year-old yesterday,” said Bullock, who’s also president of Rainbow PUSH Michigan. “Nineteen people were shot overnight across Chicago, two people were killed and nine shot in front of the Empire State Building. It’s time to put the focus back on the citizens.”

Bullock says state takeovers of local units of government — including schools, kicking mothers and children off cash assistance and violent crimes — are all related.

“(Our public officials) have let us down and exploited our vote,” he said to a lively crowd that shouted back, with “yeas!” “We stand against emergency financial managers, we stand against assault weapons, we stand against takeovers of our schools,” he shouted.

Over 100 people converged in the community park across from Highland Park’s McGregor Library, whichan emergency manager closed in 2002, drawing national support for funding to reopen its doors.

Bullock led the marchers from the library to Oppenheimer Memorial Park located just north of Eight Mile Road, in Ferndale.

The marchers carried signs that read, “Stop the Gun Flow,” “Revive the Ban on Assault Weapons” “Stop the Violence,” “Reinvest in America” and “End Emergency Management.”

A small procession of cars traveled along side the marchers. One SUV had speakers atop the roof blaring Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Today we remember the powerful vision of Dr. King’s … speech. It is a vision of freedom, full employment and nonviolence. His dream compels us to start a nationwide crusade for America,” said Bullock. “A crusade to protect our freedoms, end poverty, fight racial injustice, curb violence, demand urban divestment and defeat voter suppression. This Crusade for America will connect people from across the country who face the same issues, but desire a true change from policymakers.”

Political officials and citizens from across the state — west to east and north to south — were represented.

All joined in call and response chants like, “When democracy is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back;” “When we fight, we win;” and “No justice, no peace.”

“This isn’t a Detroit issue, or a Highland Park issue or a Traverse City issue,” Betsy Coffia of Traverse City told the crowd. “This isn’t just about Detroit. This is about Michigan and our democratic rights.”

Coffia, who says the state’s emergency manager law is an attack on citizens’ democratic rights, won the Democratic primary in her district earlier this month.

She continued, “It’s not an urban issue or a Black issue, it’s a democracy issue. And we’re going to take our democracy back.”

According to Coffia, Traverse City residents made up 30,000 of the petition signatures calling for the referendum to repeal Public Act 4. The question to repeal the draconian law, which is now suspended, will go on the ballot Nov. 6, when voters decide its fate — a victory the marchers celebrated.

Pontiac State Rep. Tim Greimel also joined the march.

“We’ve been battling against emergency managers for years,” Greimel told the Michigan Citizen. “We’ve had three in three years, and each is worse than the last.”

Greimel says no one should be surprised that “unelected and unaccountable” officials don’t act in the best interest of citizens.

The self-proclaimed “out-spoken critic” of PA4 says he’s been proactive in his district in energizing residents and educating them on how emergency management is destroying cities.

“The current manager tried to change how community block grant funds were administered, which would have caused the city to lose $2 million” said Greimel. “We were able to contact Congressman (Gary) Peters and he worked with HUD to block the EM from changing how the funds were administered and we were able to keep the money. It’s going to take those kinds of creative efforts to block some of the nonsense that’s going on.”

Greimel added that it’s important for everyone to come forward to show solidarity in all areas that are under EMs, as well as partnering on other issues.

Other speakers included the UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who told the crowd it was going to take a collective effort to right the wrongs in all of our communities.

“When Obama said, ‘Yes we can,’ once he was elected we acted like he said, ‘Yes he can.’ We don’t need politicians to tell us we need to help our communities.”

Speaking of the ballot question on collective bargaining, she said, “When workers bargain collectively, non-union members get the benefit.”

Metro Detroit AFL CIO President Chris Michalakis received applause when he ended his speech with, “We want more school houses and less jail houses. We want more ballots and less bullets.”

Other speakers included Rev. Tellis Chapman, who opened the event with a prayer; Highland Park Mayor DeAndre Windom; Maureen Taylor of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization; Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations of Michigan (CAIR-MI); Charles Williams, II of National Action Network Detroit Chapter and many others.

Bullock says he believes the march served its purpose.

“We have to animate the base, get (people) engaged in things they aren’t normally thinking about as we move toward November.”

Rainbow PUSH Michigan held several mobilization efforts centered around the march. Events included a funeral for democracy on Memorial Day, a Father’s Day weekend initiative, which included calling on Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to increase public safety funding, a prayer vigil at a local gun shop and organized affiliates around the country to hold prayer vigils in the wake of the Aurora, Colo. shooting.

The next phase of the Crusade, Bullock says, will focus heavily on Congress revive the ban on assault weapons after they return from their August recess.

“The national march will focus on emergency reinvestment, economic recovery in urban America, the expansion of employment, educational opportunities for youth and returning citizens, the protection of our voting rights, reviving the ban on assault weapons, zero tolerance school expulsion and truancy policies, and the racial divide in America.”

For more information and to find out about local actions, visit http://crusadeforamerica.tumblr.com

Contact Zenobia Jeffries at zjeffries@michigancitizen.com

 

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