Detroit — A standing-room-only audience at Central United Methodist Church participated in an Emergency Town Hall meeting March 2 in response to the “Plan of Adjustment” in the Detroit federal bankruptcy case. The document is designed to institutionalize corporate rule over the people of this majority African-American city.
The event was planned by a coalition of organizations fighting the emergency management and bankruptcy of the city, including the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, National Action Network Detroit Chapter, Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, and Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.
The crowd was made up of many retired city workers. Under the state-imposed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s plan, retirees will be subjected to cuts that are tantamount to 70 percent of their overall income and benefits package.
The plan does not mention the role of the banks in destroying the city. There were tens of thousands of foreclosures in the city beginning in 2007 as a direct result of the predatory lending of the banks and the failure of state and local government to impose a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.
Hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds and settlement monies from fines paid by banks have been funneled to the state of Michigan, but very little has reached Detroit and other distressed cities to support the stabilization and reconstruction of working-class communities.
Several speakers stressed that developments in the coming weeks will be critical. Workers, retirees and the community must come out in force to stop the banks’ and the bondholders’ plans to impose their austerity program on the people of Detroit.
Several proposals were put forward by the organizers. On April 1 there will be a hearing in bankruptcy court for objectors to the Orr plan. Forms were distributed for retirees and residents to formally oppose the program of austerity. The Moratorium NOW! Coalition called for a mass demonstration in front of the courthouse that day.
Fred Westbrook, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union local representing the city’s bus drivers, called for a demonstration in Washington. “Detroit is a test case,” said Westbrook. “If they can carry this out here, it will spread across the country.”
A proposal to organize a “Youth March for Jobs” on April 4, the anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was advanced by youth of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together. FIST organizer Tom Michalak said, “Under this system there is no hope for youth. We have to begin to organize and fight for jobs and education.”
Attorney Alice Jennings proposed that May Day be utilized to call for a “no work, no school and no shopping day.” Jennings noted that such actions would draw the attention of people around the country.