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‘Refuse complicity, go on the record, make a history of conscience, come into exile’

Editor’s Note:  Detroit Public School Board Member Elena Herrada and Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann were arrested for acts of civil disobedience during a council hearing. Both kneeled in the council chambers and refused to move in protest of the Jones Day contract with the city. The following statements were given July 28 at the 36th District Court.

Statement of the Honorable Elena Herrada, elected school board in exile:

I have never been arrested before for any reason. It has become necessary to confront immoral legal authority. If we do nothing, we are complicit.

As an elected school board member, I have been sued by the attorney general of Michigan for being elected. Judges, lawyers, teachers, politicians and citizens are afraid to speak out against this abuse of power.

The rich do not have to pay taxes and are able to evict residents from their apartments and homes without a hearing. Sports arenas and casinos take precedent over schools.

Privately-owned party buses roam the streets while Detroiters wait for public busses that never come. Taxes are waived for the rich while the poorest are left holding the bag. Lighting is privatized, and we are still in the dark.

Police, firefighters and city workers who have carried us for generations are threatened with losing their hard-earned pensions so bond holders who did nothing to earn them are stealing them.

Thieves are allowed to open charter schools, and crooks are imposed upon the elected school board by the power-mad emergency manager.  The library is in danger of being looted by well-dressed criminals.

Honest citizens and elected school board members and library commissioners are demonized by the bought and paid for media. We are told we will elect Duggan, who never suffered any of the degradations Detroiters have been suffering.

People of good will eventually go into exile with us.

The elected school board has suffered under this tyranny for the past five years, and now we are told we have another 18 months. There is no end to the looting until we run out these banks. They are never going to be satisfied.

Detroit must stand up.

Statement of Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann, pastor St Peter’s Episcopal Detroit

As a native Detroiter, a graduate of DPS Cooley High School, a pastor and 35-year resident in southwest Detroit, this city is home to my heart. As a community activist committed to nonviolence, I have been arrested many times in a 40-year history of direct action in anti-war, solidarity, labor, environmental and anti-nuclear struggles. And so I have been wishing for resistance actions against the unconstitutional and illegitimate authority of these emergency managements. I’m praying for it now.

We were present in City Council chambers April 16 to break the pall of silence when the contract with the Jones Day law firm was up for council approval. We knelt and sang and would not cease:

  • Because gathering signatures and passing a repeal ballot measure are made to be  meaningless exercises;
  • Because the disasters of financial emergency are contrived and concocted;
  • Because, like our public schools, our city is being dismantled by design;
  • Because the dominating spell of a legal fiction has been cast over this city;
  • Because the City Council willingly exercises only the power allowed it by the forces of emergency management;
  • Because the multi-million dollar Jones Day contract was an open conflict of interest and an act of public malfeasance;
  • Because the emergency manager claims authority to make that contract himself and did not need the Council to do so, the majority gave comfort, cover and the appearance of democratic rule;
  • Because this law firm, the third largest in the world, serves and represents the very banks and financial institutions that hold Detroit hostage, and because Kevin Orr, a partner in this firm, negotiated the arrangement;
  • Because their client, Bank of America/Merill-Lynch, which is far bigger than the city of Detroit, holds it hostage with indebtedness and credit swaps, and because the restructurers offer Detroit pensioners 10 cents on the dollar while offering Bank of America 75 cents on the dollar.
  • Because it was — it is — time for the people of Detroit to withdraw their consent and cooperation;
  • Because if nothing else, we need to go on record because there must be a history of conscience to tell our young people and children. 

For more information, contact the Detroit Education Task Force at 313.974.0501 and Detroiters Resisting Emergency Managements at 313.433.1967.

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