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Different values

Week 15 of the occupation

By Shea Howell
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Last week, more than100 people gathered at the Church of the Messiah for the March for Peace. It was a spirited gathering, as people walked through the east side neighborhood chanting, “Peace now” and “Silence the violence.” Neighbors stood on porches and clapped along with the drumbeats. High school students danced in the street. Decorated bikes, motorcycles, horses, babies in carriages and elders assisted with canes gathered to create an atmosphere of love and care.

No one from the mainstream media covered this march. Nor do they attend to any of the countless acts of life affirming organizing in our city. Over 100 activists from around the country gathered this week at the Cass Corridor Commons and the Boggs Center to explore ideas of visionary organizing and resistance to the dehumanization that has become such an ordinary part of our culture.

Nearly 1,100 people attended the opening of “An American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs” at the Detroit Institute of Arts in celebration of her 98th birthday. And in countless community gardens, neighborhood gatherings and faith groups, people are asking what we can do to make our communities better.

This weekend, the official board of the Boggs Educational Center was sworn in as they signed a lease on the building that will become home for east side neighborhood students developing place-based education.

The Detroit Coalition against Tar Sands successfully blocked trucks from dumping yet more petroleum coke at the base of the Ambassador Bridge. The coalition has raised awareness throughout the city about the health and ecological hazards of this dirty byproduct of extracting oil from tar sands. We will hopefully bring this dumping to an end soon.

It also appears that our friends living in Henry Street have successfully organized to stave off eviction. These are victories for the human spirit at a time when so much that is decent about our city is under attack. They express the resilience of our people in the face of often overwhelming forces arrayed against us.

And they serve as a counterpoint to the crude decision-making emerging from the emergency manager’s office. These actions affirm that we can make our communities safe places to live. We can learn from one another. We have a unique history that inspires us and people who can teach us how to live in new ways together. We can find ways to develop our city, while protecting our elders and the most vulnerable among us.

In sharp contrast to these community values, last week the EM took public steps to indicate just what he meant by “slitting throats.” First, he refused to grant Council President Charles Pugh a medical leave. Aside from the fact that this may be illegal, it is certainly inhumane.

While I have rarely agreed with our president, he has clearly worked diligently over the course of his term to do what he thinks will assist the city. He, as all council members, has been living with extraordinary tensions and pressures. If he needs some time to restore and reclaim health, that time should be made available to him. This is especially important as he faces both a civil and criminal case that is surrounded in mystery.

Instead of extending support, the EM took the tough guy approach of “show up at sundown” or get out of town for good. The EM stripped Pugh of his salary and benefits as a way to humiliate him. Meanwhile, the EM violated yet another ethical standard by taking on the number two councilman as his new $225,000 hatchet man.

What is becoming abundantly clear to us as a city is that the values and actions flowing from the EM are not those that will move us toward a better future. In fact, they show the worst of old ways of being, of those who put power and property above care of one another.

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