Detroit officials nervous as public anger grows
Warnings of ‘urban rebellion’
Former-Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is warning local corporate leaders that the city could be on the verge of an urban rebellion.
Speaking at the Detroit Chamber of Commerce policy conference held Feb. 24 at the Motor City Casino downtown, Bing said that despite rhetoric about an economic resurgence, the majority African-American population was being left out of key decision-making roles.
Bing said conditions indicated the city was just “one incident” away from an explosion similar to events in Ferguson, Mo., or what happened in Detroit in July 1967. The Detroit Rebellion nearly five decades ago was the largest of such outbreaks in the history of the United States.
“As much as we say or think we are being inclusive, the reality is we are not,” said Bing. “There is an undercurrent of frustration and anger that could lead to a negative outcome.” (Deadline Detroit, Feb. 25)
The former Pistons basketball star, corporate spokesperson and businessman during the 1960s through the present, Bing noted that he had spent several months talking with African-American businesspeople, students and others in the city. He said many feel “left out” of the so-called revival of Detroit.
“African-American economic empowerment and neighborhood development must be an essential part of Detroit’s resurgence. Diversity is about counting people. Inclusion is about making people count,” he emphasized.
During Bing’s mayoral tenure, the general perception among many people in Detroit was that he was preparing the city for emergency management and restructuring, which occurred under his leadership from 2009 to 2013. Bing never provided any serious opposition to the imposition of emergency management by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, which forced the city into bankruptcy during 2013-14, the largest in U.S. municipal history.
Bing has been closely allied with the automotive industry, serving as a spokesperson for Buick during the late 1960s, when the African-American liberation struggle was at a high level. This was a period when many professional athletes identified with and joined demonstrations against racism and national oppression.
Obviously Bing is echoing certain sections of the ruling class in Detroit who realize that conditions are worsening for the African-American people. Growing militancy among the masses has been seen in protests against the engineers of emergency management and bankruptcy at three public events in recent months.
Residents blocked parking lots and confronted guests at two gala affairs at the Detroit Institute of Arts that honored federal Judge Steven Rhodes, who presided over the city bankruptcy theft of retiree pensions, health care programs, public assets and massive water shut-offs; the Jones Day law firm, which represented the Snyder administration’s restructuring plan in court; and former-Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.
Bing attacked by Duggan administration
A public forum at Wayne State University in late 2015 was cancelled due to disruptions by people in the audience who denounced Snyder and Orr. Corporate-oriented Mayor Mike Duggan refused to walk onto the stage amid the demonstration. Duggan is the first white mayor in the city since 1973.
Bing’s statements were attacked as untrue by Police Chief James Craig the next day. Craig often brags that street crime is down, yet reports abound related to corruption in the Detroit Land Bank Authority, known for its no-bid contracts and abusive administrators.
Other Duggan appointees joined the chorus against Bing, touting their dialogue with African-American business owners and city residents. The Duggan administration is known for its intolerance of critical comments about the social situation in Detroit.
Detroit still suffers from widespread poverty, unemployment and home foreclosures. Public transportation is poor, and large swaths of the city remain dark without working street lights.
Duggan delivered his “State of the City Address” on Feb. 23 at Second Ebenezer Church on the city’s east side, which has been devastated by job losses and residential flight fostered by the banks and corporations. The speech triggered at least four disruptions from the audience, who chanted him down.
Demonstrators gathered outside the entrance of the church carrying a banner that read “Duggan = Black death.” When opponents of the Duggan administration attempted to set up a picket line in front of the church doors, they were told by police that they had to move to the sidewalk because that area was “private property.”
Some demonstrators challenged this notion, since the “State of the City Address” is a public event featuring elected officials. Detroit and corporate interests were sued in 2014 for turning away protesters at a public area downtown. The city of Detroit settled the suit and passed a new ordinance ostensibly designed to protect “free speech.” Duggan opponents feel the police action on Feb. 23 violated the law.
Anger mounts against false narrative
Recent demonstrations against the city’s ruling-class agents have gained the attention of at least a fraction in the power structure. Bing’s warning cannot be viewed in a political vacuum.
Citywide elections are scheduled for 2017, and the Duggan administration and the City Council have almost nothing to show for their efforts over the last three years.
Most neighborhood and small business districts in the city remain devastated. Approximately 50,000 homes are facing tax foreclosures after the March 31 deadline.
A Detroit News study during 2015 documented that the banks were responsible for the tens of thousands of abandoned homes and apartments in the city. Many of the report’s findings reflect what the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs has been saying since 2008.
Successive city and state administrations have failed to stand up to the tyranny of the banks and corporations, which continue to loot the municipality of Detroit and Michigan as a whole.
Gov. Snyder has come under fire for his continued emergency management of Detroit Public Schools. Teachers have engaged in “sick-outs” and other protests against the deplorable conditions in the schools.
Darnell Earley, the DPS emergency manager appointed by Snyder, stepped down on Feb. 29. Meanwhile, retired federal Judge Rhodes has been appointed the new emergency manager of the DPS by Snyder.
This appointment exposes the fact that Snyder and his backers are committed to maintaining corporate control over the DPS and all other aspects of public life in the city. Legal efforts by the state-controlled school system to sanction teachers for their protest actions have failed so far.
Duggan and his allies are proposing a new scheme of control and disempowerment over the DPS through what they call a Detroit Education Commission. This plan would continue the denial of the right to vote for an empowered school board, which has been rendered totally impotent by the state.
These developments, if continued, could very well lead to a mass rebellion, given the broad anger and discontent among the city’s nearly 700,000 residents.