Democracy Dies in Detroit!
On Memorial Day I attended a “Funeral for Democracy” hosted by Rainbow Push Detroit. Rev. D. Alexander Bullock, who is the president of both Rainbow Push Detroit and the Highland Park NAACP, spoke at the event. He addressed many issues, but the reason for declaring democracy officially dead in Michigan is because of the passage of Public Act 4, also known as the Emergency Manager Law. This law allows for the state to install its own “Emergency Manager” in cities that are deemed to be in financial distress. The person in this position then has ultimate authority over all of that city’s governance without having to take into consideration the will of its citizenry.
Rev. Bullock and Rainbow Push are declaring democracy dead in Michigan because the voters in those cities where the elected officials are replaced by an Emergency Manager have essentially had their right to choose who governs them taken away. It would also appear that the cities being targeted are mostly minority communities. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow interviewed Rev. Bullock on her show and gives a nice summation of the suspension of democracy in Michigan here.
As if that weren’t enough there is also a blatant effort by ALEC, who calls itself “non-partisan”, to enact laws in various states across the country to restrict voter rights and voter registration. These laws are being passed in Lansing and are thought to be an effort by Republicans to disinfranchise minority voters who might support Obama, and will make it easier to contest the votes after the election.
So with the passage of Public Act 4 and the Republicans wanting to restrict voting rights it looks as if “Michigan is the new Mississippi” as it says on the flyer for the “Funeral For Democracy”. Cities under Emergency Managment have had their budgets slashed and election officials say it will be hard to coordinate elections given the lack of funds. Rev. Bullock links the surge of violence in Detroit with more and more restrictive austerity measures demanded by Lansing. Budgetary cuts have severely reduced the police presence in Detroit yet there is no lack of guns on the streets. Rev. Bullock and Rainbow Push are planning a march on gun manufacturers in the city to take place Father’s Day weekend.
Michigan is gearing up to be one of the most repressive states in the union toward its minority citizens. There is a greater need for direct action in this election cycle more than any other in recent memory. On August 25th Rainbow Push is holding a large-scale march to protest the voter suppression measures, Public Act 4, and the violence that is caused by reducing city budgets so drastically that there is not sufficient protection for law-abiding residents. It also happens to coincide with the Detroit installment of Occupy the Midwest, which will be a series of activist events and organizing. This summer Detroit activists want to send a clear message to the state and the nation, but unfortunately due to mass media consolidation the revolution will not be televised, so you’ll have to come in person. In other words, as one speaker at the Memorial Day event said evoking the great James Brown; “Get Up! Get On Up!”