SHUT IT DOWN!
By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Noir is standing outside in the cold and snow, waiting for the bus driver — who is taking his break alone inside the heated bus — to open the door. Young Noir is frustrated with inadequate city services, joblessness and the city’s overall economic system, as are many of other the riders who were waiting at the Rosa Parks bus terminal in Detroit on April 15.
He has a litany of complaints about social issues, but most of all wishes he were treated with respect. “Why can’t he just let us on the bus, instead of having us wait out here in the cold?” he asks, pointing at the idling driver.
Noir can’t think of any action powerful enough to impact the forces that make his life difficult.
Over 35 different city groups are banding together to organize a day of protest, May 1, International Workers’ Day. The coalition demands, among other things, Public Act 436, the Emergency Manager Law, be overturned; Kevyn Orr’s Plan of Adjustment rejected; the end of gentrification; popular control of public assets and spaces; raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; restoration of state revenue sharing; a moratorium on foreclosures, evictions and utility shut-offs; and jobs for youth.
May Day protest activities will commence at an 8 a.m. prayer breakfast at UAW Local 600 (10550 Dix Avenue, Dearborn). At 11 a.m., a caravan will leave UAW 600 to rally at Detroit’s Hart Plaza. Weather permitting the rally will lead to a 1:30 p.m. march through downtown Detroit, targeting banks and law firms that have supported the structure of emergency management and the financial looting of the city, says Mike Shane of Moratorium NOW and one of the event’s organizers.
The march is set to end in Grand Circus Park with a political discussion. In case of inclement weather, activities will be held in Central United Methodist Church (23 E. Adams, Detroit).
In addition to the rally, organizers are asking Detroiters to engage in a complete one-day economic boycott, says Meeko Williams of Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management (D-REM).
“Don’t buy cigarettes, gas, food, alcohol, lottery tickets or anything else,” Williams says. He notes how a month-long boycott of a Detroit Shell gas station by Tamika Gaines has led to major improvements in the cleanliness of that facility and in the way the employees treat all customers.
The May 1 boycott is “an economic threat to Dan Gilbert” and other civic leaders who have supported emergency management and in turn, who Williams hopes, will put pressure on government officials to restore democracy to Detroit.
Lila Cabbil doesn’t believe that a one-day boycott will change much for Detroit businesses. She does believe, however, the action will show people “they have economic power; even a bridge card has economic power,” she told the Michigan Citizen.
Cabbil spent 37 years with Rosa Parks, learning the Montgomery Bus Boycott did more to teach the people, who she says “were used to be treated a certain way,” that they had power. The recognition of that strength allowed their numbers to grow and to resist unjust conditions they had previously accepted.
“It’s not clear to people what’s happening to them,” Cabbil says referring to the complex web of swap agreements, projected pension fund value, court decisions, but “they do know that their basic needs aren’t being met. They do know that they have to wait longer on buses. They (just) don’t see themselves in terms of systems of change. A one-day event is not going to shut down a business, (but) it will be a lesson to people.”
Cabbil hopes the businesses will treat people with more respect after the action. When citizens learn they can hold their local stores accountable for the way they are treated, she believes they will learn they can hold their government accountable as well.
Both Cabbil and Shane say city retirees aren’t the only ones with “skin in the game.”
All Americans are affected by infringement of democratic principles and the cuts to publicly-held assets. Anyone who is counting on receiving social security benefits for their retirement plan should be concerned about any cuts to pensions, Shane says, as he believes social security will soon suffer a similar fate.
Cabbil observes that white women are the most likely to be recipients of welfare in the U.S., and therefore have a vested interest in ensuring that social services remain funded, and there is a democratic infrastructure to ensure they do.
Abayomi Azikwe, editor of the Pan-African Newswire and member of Moratorium NOW!, concurs.
Anyone and everyone should participate in the May Day activities he told the Michigan Citizen. “There is going to be a massive restructuring of the city that’s going to be disadvantageous to the majority who live here and people should be aware of that and oppose it,” says Azikwe. “What’s going on right now is a huge theft of public assets of deferred wages of retirees, as well as jobs and other land that is control by the city of Detroit.”
He added, “People have to come out into the streets, they have to organize they have to mobilize to take back the city from the banks and the corporations.”
Organizers suggest people who want to participate in the May Day activities prepare a day in advance, stocking up on food, gas and other needed items, and, if possible, take the day off of work. “Use a day of vacation time if you can,” says Shane.
“When you have a disconnect from humanity, it’s dangerous for all,” warns Cabbil. “That’s why I’m so concerned with the people being able to tell their stories and be representing in terms of lifting their voice in a situation where we no longer have representation, but we’re still having to pay the price. We’re back to the original tea party — taxation without representation. The main thing is to pay attention to the people who are most impacted by emergency management and the stories they have to tell about how it has changed their lives.”
After quoting Dr. Martin Luther King’s reminder that when one stays silent about injustices done to others, eventually there will be no one to speak up for them, Cabbil says, “We have to get people on the sidelines, especially white people, concerned about the breach on democracy.”