Facing evictions, repression, no jobs
Workers, youth open fightback at Tent City
Published Jun 17, 2009 4:34 PM
June 16—Hundreds of poor and working people have gathered at the National
People’s Summit and Tent City in downtown Detroit to put forward the
people’s vision of a future with guaranteed jobs and income, universal
health care, housing and utilities, and all rights that working class people
are currently denied under the capitalist system.
Tent City marchers in Detroit.
WW photo: LeiLani Dowell
More than 330 people registered for the four-day event. They have come from
throughout metro Detroit and Michigan—even workers from the Upper
Peninsula are at Tent City. Workers and activists from Florida, Georgia,
Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North
Carolina, Ohio and more are represented.
The People’s Summit and Tent City, based in Grand Circus Park from June
14-17, was called in response to the National Summit of big-business CEOs and
executives being held at the General Motors Renaissance Center—GM’s
“They’re going to regret the closing of 14 plants and the laying
off of General Motors workers, because the workers are fighting back!”
said Frank Hammer, a retired United Auto Workers International representative
and leader of the Autoworker Caravan, as he opened the rally after a militant
demonstration outside the big-business summit today.
American Axle workers.
WW photo: Kris Hamel
More than 500 workers, including many from around Michigan and Ohio, marched in
front of the GM Renaissance Center demanding jobs and human needs, not
corporate greed. “The workers have spoken—keep the plants
open!” was one of many chants that thundered from East Jefferson Avenue
as dozens of cops and private thugs stood in formation guarding the privately
owned Ren Cen.
As the workers marched and rallied for jobs, Richard Dauch, CEO of American
Axle and Manufacturing, Inc., addressed the capitalists inside, along with
former Michigan Gov. John Engler.
Dauch wrested tremendous concessions from striking UAW workers in 2008, cutting
wages and benefits in half. Workers were promised their jobs would be saved,
but now Dauch has broken that vow and the American Axle plant in Hamtramck,
Mich., located within the city of Detroit, has closed.
WW photo: Cheryl LaBash
Engler was rewarded for his gutting of welfare and education in Michigan with
his appointment as president and CEO of the National Association of
The People’s Summit and Tent City opened with a dynamic State of
Emergency Fightback Rally on June 14. A host of speakers reiterated the theme
that workers and poor people must fight back to reclaim their right to jobs,
homes, equal quality education, and social and economic justice. “I
declare a state of emergency!” said state Sen. Hansen Clarke, sponsor of
a bill in the state legislature for a two-year moratorium on foreclosures and
Other speakers included Detroit Councilperson JoAnn Watson; the Rev. Ed Rowe of
Central United Methodist Church, a base of many struggles for social and
economic justice; Maureen Taylor of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization;
Teresa Gutierrez of the May 1 Coalition in New York City; foreclosure-fighting
attorney Vanessa Fluker; Sandra Hines of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop
Foreclosures and Evictions; Marguerite Maddox of Paws with Cause, a
disability-rights organization; youth and union organizer Dante Strobino of
Durham, N.C.; recently- convicted people’s journalist Diane Bukowski, who
was charged with felony counts while trying to report on pedestrian deaths
resulting from a police chase; and Baldemar Velasquez of the Farm Labor
Special sessions at the People’s Summit on June 14 discussed the
immigrant rights struggle. Organizers with Fight Imperialism, Stand Together
(FIST), a militant national youth organization, talked about the problems
facing students and young workers today. Another special session heard from
Dieter Ilius of the German Metalworkers Trade Union.
June 15 started with a mass leafleting outside 36th District Court, three
blocks from Tent City. Activists distributed hundreds of “Know Your
Rights” leaflets to homeowners and renters facing foreclosures and
evictions. 36th District Court is the busiest foreclosure court in the United
States. A militant picket line and demonstration demanding a moratorium on
foreclosures and evictions took place outside the court at lunchtime.
A “Corporate/Banker Devastation Tour” caravan departed Tent City
for the GM Ren Cen to pick up big-business meeting participants who were
“cordially invited” to see the real Detroit and what corporate
greed has done to the city’s people. None of them had the guts to board
the van and face reality. Nevertheless, many out-of-town People’s
Summiteers and some media joined the tour and viewed foreclosed homes,
abandoned neighborhoods and closed plants.
A special session on organizing mass protests outside the G20 summit to be held
in Pittsburgh heard from dozens of people with ideas on how to build a
broad-based coalition to challenge the mass meeting of capitalists from the
richest countries on Sept. 24-25. Special sessions on the crisis in education
and how to fight foreclosures provided an opportunity for activists to exchange
ideas on furthering these struggles.
Hundreds of People’s Summiteers marched from Tent City down Woodward
Avenue to the GM Ren Cen on June 15. “Bail out the people! Not the
banks!” and other chants echoed loudly throughout downtown Detroit as
marchers carried banners and signs demanding jobs, health care, education,
immigrant rights, jobs not jails for youth, reproductive justice for women, an
end to foreclosures and evictions, and many other demands.
In the evening a rally to stop police brutality and killings denounced the many
injustices of the criminal injustice system that incarcerates millions of
oppressed people. Speakers included Larry Hales of FIST, himself a survivor of
police brutality and ongoing harassment; former prisoner Joshua; Kevin Carey
and Charlotte Diggs of Detroit People’s Task Force, who are investigating
the many irregularities in the Detroit Crime Lab; Ron Scott of the Detroit
Coalition Against Police Brutality; and LeiLani Dowell of FIST, who chronicled
the police brutality and injustices facing lesbian, gay, bi and trans
June 16 began with a militant demonstration led by people with disabilities in
front of the Grand Circus Park station of the Detroit People Mover, an elevated
rail system that is inaccessible to people in wheelchairs. Participants marched
and wheeled down Woodward Avenue to the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center,
where they spoke out at a session of City Council. Councilwoman JoAnn Watson
commissioned the council’s research department to begin an immediate
investigation into the lack of elevators at the Detroit People Mover stations
so as to implement meeting the needs of Detroiters with disabilities.
Musicians, poets and spoken-word artists have rounded out the days at the Tent
City with performances after each evening’s rallies. A delicious dinner
has been prepared by volunteer activists and served every evening to more than
300 people at Grand Circus Park.
The People’s Summit and Tent City has received widespread coverage by the
big-business-owned media. Every day the people’s struggle has been
highlighted on local television, radio and in newspapers.
The strength and success of the People’s Summit and Tent City, the
feeling of fightback and solidarity expressed by all its participants, will not
end when the final tent is taken down on June 17. There is the sense here that
this is the beginning of a mighty struggle to reorder the priorities of
society, to demand and fight for jobs and all human needs and to put corporate
greed and the profit system into the dustbin of history where they belong.
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