Occupy Detroit plans march today
Inspired by Wall Street protests, group will walk to Grand Circus Park, take over area
by Kim Kozlowski
Protesters are gearing up for a march and occupation of Detroit today, which could last for 60 days.
The Occupy Detroit group — inspired by the protests on Wall Street seeking social, political and economic change — plans to meet at 4 p.m. today at the Spirit of Detroit statute on Woodward. The group will march to Grand Circus Park at 6 p.m. and then occupy the area with sit-ins, pickets and other forms of protest.
Among those who plan to participate is Darlene Westfall, a Detroit Public Schools special education teacher.
“I’ve been teaching for 30 years and I have been considering getting another job because I can’t make ends meet,” said Westfall, a Westland resident. “I am getting the same salary I got in the mid-’90s. Something is not right.”
On Thursday, Mayor Dave Bing and Police Chief Ralph L. Godbee Jr. issued a statement saying, “We are working to ensure that all citizens are able to assemble and express themselves peacefully and in accordance with the law.”
Organizers of Occupy Detroit have been stressing a peaceful demonstration for days. Arrests have been made in other communities.
Meanwhile, organizers were firming up logistics such as parking, bathrooms, electricity and food deliveries. Signs were being created and participants were being coached online how to post pictures and messages on social media sites to document the event.
The grassroots movement was spawned last month on Wall Street by people who said they are fed up with the economic gulf between the 1 percent of the nation’s wealthy and its middle class. The movement has since spread across the country, with activism rooted in scores of Michigan cities. Flint organizers also are planning an occupation demonstration today, and a Lansing event is scheduled for Saturday.
Occupy Detroit has the support of many labor, community and faith groups.
Central United Methodist Church in Grand Circus Park — and long known for its activism — is planning to stay open to let the protesters use its restrooms. It remains unclear what specific issues protesters want changed, but many have been given by supporters. Some say they want to see more taxes on the rich, other emphasize more social reform and economic justice.
“We want a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions and utility shut-offs,” said Abayomi Azikiwe, co-founder of Moratorium Now, a community group that helps the poor. “We want to stabilize the housing market, to keep people in their homes. We want a full jobs program that is funded by the federal government to employ everyone in the United States who wants a job.
“We also want universal health care. We also want the end of the wars of occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Libya. Those are the top demands that we are advocating.”
It’s unclear how many people will attend the Detroit event but 4,700 people have “liked” the Occupy Detroit page on Facebook.
Detroit police plan to monitor the event, said Sgt. Eren Stephens. Streets will not be shut down because at this point, the group has not applied for a permit, she said.
“While they are here, they have to obey the rules and regulations and policies,” Stephens said.
As the date of the event grew closer, many were talking about why the movement is important.
“I believe in capitalism and democracy,” said John DeBruyn, a Detroit resident who attended the organizing meeting. “But right now our democracy is broken and capitalists are in control and that needs to change.”
Occupy Detroit organizers plan next move
by Kim Kozlowski
Detroit— A grassroots group known as Occupy Detroit is having its first general assembly meeting at 7 p.m. Monday and it’s being streamed live on the group’s Facebook page.
The group is part of the protests on Wall Street that started small but have since spread across the nation with the help of social media.
The only thing that’s been planned for Monday night’s meeting is the agenda, according to Scott Purdy, one of the meeting’s organizers.
Nearly 500 people on Facebook have indicated they plan to be at the meeting at 7 p.m. at the Spirit of Hope Church, 1519 Martin Luther King Blvd., in Detroit.
“Finally we’re going to get together for the first time as a united people here in Detroit because there’s been a lot of chat everywhere,” said Scott Purdy, one of the meeting’s organizers. “We’re just excited to have a peaceful gathering of voices.”
The main things that will be discussed Monday is the location, date and time for the next part of the movement, Purdy said.
A similar meeting will be held in Lansing on Saturday.
To watch the meeting live, log on to the group’s Facebook page, Occupy Detroit 1st General Assembly. The group also has a Facebook discussion page, Occupy Detroit General Assembly and Discussion Group.
In wake of Occupy Wall Street, plans develop for Occupy Detroit
Area activists will gather at the Spirit of Hope Church at 1519 Martin Luther King Blvd. in Detroit on Monday to discuss plans for a protest dubbed “Occupy Detroit.”
The planned protest — to begin Oct. 21 — is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street protest that has been continuing in New York City since September 17, centering on economic injustice and the plight of average Americans. It has since spread to a number of other cities, including Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Seattle, Denver and Washington, D.C.
“This is meant to be a peaceful nonviolent act of civil disobedience,” said Alexandra Borngesser, a member of the Occupy Detroit and Lansing Volunteer Group. “I’m hoping that the population of metro Detroit can get involved because Detroit is so directly affected by big business and economic hardship.”
Occupy Detroit has already gathered over 1,800 followers on its Facebook page — and the numbers are growing daily.
“Everyone who has suffered financial injustice is welcome,” the group’s Facebook page states. “If you’ve had no voice, please join us in this peaceful occupation. Together, we will be heard!”
Current plans include using Roosevelt Park in front of the Michigan Central Station as the base camp for the protest, where marchers will make their way towards Grand Circus Park, Hart Plaza and the Financial District.
“Corporations have a disproportionate influence in the political sphere and no one is in favor of evicting struggling families to the street while banks continue to profit,” said Borngesser. “We need to bring this country back to its roots, back to a place where America is represented by a government of the people, for the people, by the people … instead of one controlled by big business and large corporations.”
Plans also include a candlelight vigil for Troy Davis to be held on the night of Oct. 21. Davis was executed Sept. 21 in Georgia in a murder case — growing out of the 1989 shooting of a police officer — that provoked widespread controversy and a number of protests because of doubts about his guilt and questions about the handling of his case.
Meanwhile, observers of the movement are commenting not only on its geographic spread around the country, but the range of supporters. Besides support from labor unions, the protest supporters now include public left intellectuals like Cornel West and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University.
This is a video of Stiglitz’s address to protesters on Sunday. The unusual “echo chamber” delivery was a way of dealing with a ban on bullhorns to communicate with the gathering.