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At Detroit’s Labor Day

Cynthia McKinney speaks on war & racism

Published Sep 7, 2008 8:39 PM

Labor Day weekend is always an important time in Detroit, known as the “Motor City,” home to hundreds of thousands of organized and unorganized workers.

What made this year’s Labor Day significant was the visit of Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, who is providing an alternative perspective to the two dominant U.S. political parties, alongside her vice-presidential running mate, activist and Hip-Hop artist, Rosa Clemente.

At an Aug. 30 campaign rally, McKinney spoke to a capacity audience at the International Institute. Political prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney spoke through a taped video presentation from the prison where he is being held on trumped-up charges stemming from his organizing work in Berrien County.

Rev. Pinkney is a Green Party candidate for U.S. Congress in the district where he worked to overturn decades of institutional racism, police brutality and corporate control over the political direction of the city of Benton Harbor. This activist was sentenced to 3-10 years in state prison for quoting biblical scriptures.

McKinney in her address stated, “I first heard of Benton Harbor in 2003 when there was a young man killed by the police which sparked several days of rebellion, our own intifada.”

McKinney said that this response must be viewed within the context of the international situation of oppressed people throughout the world.

“People all over the world are liberating themselves. In Paraguay, a former priest, who is a liberation theologist, was recently voted in as president because the people felt free enough to select a leader who represented their hopes and not their fears,” McKinney stated.

She discussed the crisis in Mexico when the popular choice for president was denied the right to take office in 2006. McKinney drew an analogy between this and the rigging of elections in the U.S. in 2000 and 2004.

“When people [in Mexico] showed up their names were not on the ballot. The masses shut down the capital for five months and set up a shadow government,” McKinney continued.

“The reason why so many people immigrate to the United States from Mexico is that the so-called ‘free trade’ policies such as NAFTA, which was put in place under a Democratic administration, have helped to destroy their economy.”

“In a recent referendum in Mexico,” McKinney said, “the people rejected efforts to privatize water, electricity and oil.”

McKinney criticized the $700 billion annual U.S. defense budget, which she said could be utilized to correct the overall economic crisis.

McKinney expressed her support for the Michigan campaign to win a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. Detroit Green Party co-chair and candidate for State Representative, Derrick Grigsby, spoke on the Sept. 17 march on the state capital in Lansing being organized by the Moratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions.

The Moratorium Now! Coalition is mobilizing people all over the state to demand the immediate passage of Senate Bill 1306, sponsored by state Sen. Hansen Clarke. The bill, if passed, would impose a two-year moratorium on foreclosures in Michigan.

Failure to defend the Black vote

McKinney, who served six terms in the U.S. Congress as a Georgia Democrat, resigned from that political party last year.

“Republican theft and Democratic Party complicity is why Bush is in the White House today. The Democratic Party did not defend the Black votes that were stolen in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. It was the Green Party that pursued legal cases against voter fraud in Ohio during the aftermath of the national elections in 2004. ...

“When Black, Brown, Asian and white people come together, the country can move forward.” McKinney received a standing ovation for her speech.

On Aug. 31, McKinney was a featured guest on the “Fighting For Justice” radio program on AM 1310, the local affiliate of Air America. The program, sponsored by the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality (DCAPB), focused on the arrival of Hurricane Gustav in the Gulf region and New Orleans in particular.

McKinney had been discouraged from holding a congressional hearing on the failure of the Bush administration to provide effective relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She questions the ability of the federal government to protect the people in the face of other natural disasters in 2008.

She remarked, “I along with other Democratic congresspeople was told not to participate in the hearings by the party leadership. The reason why there is a Republican governor today in Louisiana is directly related to the removal of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom were African Americans, from the state of Louisiana.”

On Sept. 1 over 100,000 people participated in the annual Labor Day march here. Delegations from the UAW, AFSCME, Unite Here, SEIU, AFL-CIO, the Teamsters and others marched in their union colors chanting pro-labor slogans.

Members of the Moratorium Now! Coalition distributed thousands of Sept. 17 leaflets to workers.

Barack Obama spoke at the rally after the march where people of all races and nationalities lined up to hear him. He was joined on stage by leading officials of the major trade union organizations based in the Detroit area.

At the Anchor restaurant, which caters to union members, McKinney attended a reception in her honor in the aftermath of the Labor Day march.

“I have a 100 percent voting record in support of labor,” McKinney said. “The conditions today require us to do things that have never been done before. This is why I declared my independence from the Democratic Party.”

Ron Scott, a co-founder of the Detroit chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968 and currently the spokesperson for the DCAPB, said that “the only way to make change is through the people. [McKinney’s] candidacy and movement represents the struggle. Today we are facing a nationalization of law enforcement. The Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) never left but only changed its form. ...

“Republicans put a woman on their ticket,” Scott continued. “However, this party has put a real freedom fighter on its ticket.”

McKinney expressed her admiration for the legacy of the Black Panther Party and other organizations that have challenged the system of racism.ν