DETROIT – Thousands of marchers, many of them Black youth, union members and church leaders, occupied the streets of downtown Detroit for several hours April 25 outside General Electric’s national shareholders meeting at the Renaissance Center.
They chanted non-stop, “GE, pay your taxes” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, corporate greed has got to go!” They came from metro Detroit, and from all over the Midwest in busloads, including Wisconsin and Ohio.
Leaders skillfully coordinated the mass occupation of the streets, keeping the marchers in solid blocs behind the RenCen, where they were supposed to remain, and then down the side streets onto East Jefferson and up to the front doors of the RenCen. Despite threats and shoving by Detroit police on horseback and in dozens of cars, they were not able to make arrests.
Pastors William Rideout, Homer Jamison and Walter Starghill from Detroit and Inkster led the occupation after disrupting the shareholders’ meeting inside. They tried to present GE CEO Jeff Immett with a bill for $26.5 billion, which they said the company owes the U.S. in back taxes based on the 35 percent statutory rate.
A GE spokesman said the company paid $2.9 billion GLOBALLY, but had its tax rate reduced due to falling sales in previous years.
The three pastors, along with Good Jobs Now! and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), have also led militant occupations of DTE Energy’s downtown Detroit headquarters, again with large contingents of Black youth. A group of young women carried letter placards spelling out “D-T-E” during the march.
In a city where many youth have lost hope for their future, the numbers participating in the GE protest were astonishing. They danced and chanted, excited to be fighting the real public enemy, instead of each other.
“This affects me,” said Jataveyis Price, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He carried a sign calling GE a tax dodger. “The youth could have education, jobs and health care by getting all these tax dodgers out and fixing our deficit.”
GE is known for moving its plants overseas to take advantage of low wages, leaving hundreds of thousands jobless in the U.S.
Jerome Jackson, who is fighting the foreclosure of his home in Inkster, came in his wheelchair.
“If GE paid their fair share, it could be used for bringing our city out of the red and into the green.”
Jackson has another hearing pending June 7 at 2 p.m. in 22nd District Court, and is being supported by Moratorium NOW!, Occupy Detroit, and People Before Banks, who have rallied outside his home.
Charles Whitmore is the regional coordinator for MoveOn.Org, representing western Wayne and Oakland Counties.
“GE is a criminal for not paying its fair share,” Whitmore said. “They are holding up the economic recovery with their tax breaks, along with the subsidies that the oil companies and other corporations get. Since the U.S. Supreme Court decided that corporations are people, they need to become good citizens. It’s so ironic that the corporations could actually make more money by cooperating with the people instead of laying them off and foreclosing on them, because they would have more customers. “
Chuck Altman added, “GE is a major defense contractor, with contracts from the Pentagon for equipment like jet turbine engines. This country needs more butter, not more guns.”
Carrying signs proclaiming, “Windmills not Weapons,” Carolyn Doherty and Charlotte Kish explained, “GE also makes machinery for nuclear reactors, which are unsafe at any price.”
Marchers wearing purple SEIU T-Shirts were everywhere. Chris Michalakis, president of the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO, said the planning committee for the march included the United Auto Workers (UAW) and other unions as well.
However, no signs from the UAW, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and other major unions were in evidence.
Before the march, the daily media including Nolan Finley of the Detroit News blasted the protesters’ plans.
“. . . there’s a real risk . . . investors will witness instead a confirmation that Metro Detroit is ground zero for the destructive war against wealth and business,” Finley proclaimed April 22. “Groups tied to the Occupy Wall Street movement and the United Auto Workers’ 99% Spring action SWAT team have been recruiting protesters to stage an anti-World Trade Organization-style protest in the streets around the RenCen.
“But if massive numbers of raucous demonstrators disrupt the GE meeting, it will be a disaster for Detroit,” Finley continued. “Other business gatherings will avoid the city like the plague, hurting the convention business and killing jobs. More broadly, it will affirm that Detroit is still in the clutches of militant unions, hostile to business and a lousy place to plant money.”’
The News later reported that UAW President Bob King was re-considering his union’s participation.
Despite the recent disastrous state takeover of Detroit, and the cut-offs of hundreds of thousands of state residents from public assistance, many major unions have refused to call on the economic clout still held by Michigan workers. So far, leaders have refused to declare an all-union general strike, like those in Greece which forced the international banks to reduce their demands for that country’s debt payments by 75 percent.
The only time many union leaders appear to unite is to negotiate contract concessions as a group, despite the fact that such concessions have sapped both the union membership and living and working conditions for people everywhere, since the 1970’s.
The turnout of thousands, predominantly youth, at the RenCen April 26 shamed these other unions. Combined with the resources of the major unions, the national 99% movement could eventually triumph against the “destructive war” on working and poor people.
Link to original article from Voice of Detroit
After initially stating he would rule on an emergency appeal to stop water shutoffs at the end of Tuesday’s court session, US federal bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes announced Wednesday he would issue no decision until at least September 17. This means the city, which has shut off water service to nearly 1,000 households since resuming this brutal policy last week, will continue for at least the next two weeks.
Rhodes appointed a mediator from the US bankruptcy court, US chief judge Phillip Shefferly, to hold “confidential” mediations between the Detroit Water...
Lawrence Porter | World Socialist Web Site 04 Sep 2014 Hits:542 Michigan
While they carry signs “Thirsty For Justice” nearly 45% of Detroit’s 173,000 water accounts are considered past due, with 420 customers due to be denied service Tuesday.
The bankrupt Detroit lifted the month-long suspension of shutting off water to people who have not paid bills. Some 25,000 customers have reached payment plans with the city.
The new system seems to be working very well,” said John Roach, spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan. The biggest changed to the payment plan program was to require only 10% of past-due balances to enter a payment...
Kaye Wonderhouse | The Global Dispatch 28 Aug 2014 Hits:475 Michigan
DETROIT, Mich. (WJLA/AP) -- Detroit's massive municipal water department, which has been widely criticized for widespread service shutoffs to thousands of customers, drew nationwide attention Thursday on Capitol Hill.
Due to public pressure, the department has temporarily suspended shutoffs for customers who were 60 days or more behind on bills for 15 days.
But with the prospect of shutoffs resuming in a week, some members of Congress are now asking the Obama administration and the Department of Health and Human Services to intervene in what they contend is a humanitarian crisis facing...
Scott Thurman | AP | ABC 7 News 01 Aug 2014 Hits:673 Michigan
Maude Barlow, Canadian author and national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, with a delegation of water rights advocates brought 260 gallons of water to Detroiters July 24.
Of the 15,000 homes that have had water shut off by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, it is estimated that only 48 percent are back in service.
“We came to pay tribute to the people of Detroit,” Barlow said in remarks made at St. Peter’s Church, Michigan and Trumbull, where the water was delivered.
“Fresh water and sanitation are human rights guaranteed by the United Nations,”...
The Michigan Citizen 30 Jul 2014 Hits:613 Michigan
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is suspending its water shutoffs for 15 days starting today to give residents another chance to prove they are unable to pay their bills.
“In case we have missed someone who has legitimate affordability problems this will allow them to come to us to see if they can work out payments,” department spokesman Bill Johnson said. “We’ve always maintained that what we were doing was a collection effort — not a shutoff effort.”
The decision comes after the city has put into national spotlight for a...
Brent Snavely, Matt Helms | Detroit Free Press 21 Jul 2014 Hits:521 Michigan
Oh, make you wanna holler
The way they do my life
This ain't livin', this ain't livin'
No, no baby, this ain't livin'
No, no, no, no
--Marvin Gaye, "Inner City Blues"
On July 18 thousands of activists and dozens of organizations will converge on downtown Detroit to protest the privatization of the city’s assets and the disconnection of water to tens of thousands of low-income residents. The UN has called the shutoff a human rights violation. Demonstrators from around the country will rally in Hart Plaza at 1 pm, linking arms with the citizens of...
Ben Ptashnik and Victoria Collier | The Progressive 09 Jul 2014 Hits:631 Michigan
Detroit made international news this month when its municipal water board resumed cutting off water to residents with unpaid bills. With thousands of community members struggling in homes with no running water, local groups reached out (PDF) to the United Nations special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation to intervene. On Wednesday, U.N. officials responded, calling the water department’s actions a “violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.”
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s decision to cut off residents with unpaid...
Anna Lappé | Al Jazeera English 02 Jul 2014 Hits:1072 Michigan
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) won't appear on the Democratic primary ballot after failing to submit enough valid signatures, Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett said on Tuesday.
"It is my determination that in accordance with the current laws and statutes of the State of Michigan, the nominating petitions filed by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. are insufficient to allow his name to appear on the August 5, 2014 Primary Ballot," Garrett said in a statement.
The decision means Conyers may have to run as a write-in candidate if he wants to keep a seat he's held...
Cameron Joseph | The Hill 14 May 2014 Hits:745 Michigan
Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) will retire at the end of his current term, capping a historic career as the longest-serving member of Congress in history.
In prepared remarks for his annual "State of the District" speech distributed by his office Monday afternoon, Dingell described his decision as personal and rooted in the standards he had set for himself as a lawmaker.
"Around this time every two years, my wife Deborah and I confer on the question of whether I will seek reelection. My standards are high for this job. I put...
Sean Sullivan | Washington Post 24 Feb 2014 Hits:673 Michigan
On December 3, United States Bankruptcy Judge Stephen A. Rhodes—to the surprise of no one—formally ruled that Detroit is “eligible” for bankruptcy. In other words, creditors will now wrangle over Detroit’s government assets with Rhodes as the referee.
It is important to understand that at no point has Detroit declared or requested bankruptcy. Indeed Detroiters and others in Michigan have resisted as best they could, only to be overpowered at every turn. As Judge Rhodes explains below, bankruptcy has been orchestrated from Lansing (the state capitol) with a lot of help...
Frank Joyce | AlterNet 17 Dec 2013 Hits:586 Michigan
Michigan lawmakers passed a controversial measure on Wednesday that will ban all insurance plans in the state from covering abortion unless the woman's life is in danger. The law, which takes effect in March, will force women and employers to purchase a separate abortion rider if they would like the procedure covered, even in cases of rape and incest.
Supporters of the "Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act" argue that it allows people who are opposed to abortion to avoid paying into a plan that covers it. Opponents have nicknamed it the "rape...
Laura Bassett | Huffington Post 11 Dec 2013 Hits:1789 Michigan
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes ruled Tuesday that the city of Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy after a long court battle between city appointed 'emergency manager' Kevyn Orr and union and labor activists who say the decision paves the way for workers' pensions to be cut.
Rhodes ruled that Detroit is insolvent, a legal criteria for bankruptcy, meaning it can cut public pensions for the bankruptcy filing.
Critics say the city bankruptcy filing, the first of its kind, is an attack on pensions and future livelihoods for workers in the city of...
Common Dreams Staff 03 Dec 2013 Hits:487 Michigan
Contradicting what the corporate media editorial boards have promoted in chorus with the multi-millionaire Governor Rick Snyder and his appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr, 110 people filed objections to the forced bankruptcy of the City of Detroit. The hearing took place on September 19 and was widely covered in the local, national and international press.
This extraordinary hearing had provided only a small window of time for legal action. Many of the people that testified were retirees, city workers, community organizers and professionals who met the deadline set by the Judge...
Abayomi Azikiwe | Global Research 24 Sep 2013 Hits:878 Michigan
Much has been justifiably made about the damage the Roberts Supreme Court has done to voting rights in their recent decision, Shelby County v. Holder. However, a potentially more insidious plot denying the precious right to vote is occurring in my own state of Michigan, where Republican Governor Rick Snyder has appointed an emergency manager to run Detroit in place of the duly elected mayor and City Council. Even more troubling, the governor did so after Michigan voters had rejected the emergency manager law at the ballot box, when late...
Rep. John Conyers, Jr | Huffington Post 16 Sep 2013 Hits:811 Michigan
Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history Thursday afternoon, capping a long decline that left the nation’s automaking capital bleeding residents and revenue, while rendering city services a mess.
The nation’s fourth-largest city in the 1950s with nearly 2 million residents, the city has seen its populaton plummet to 700,000 as residents fled increasing crime and deteriorating sevices, taking their tax dollars with them.
The five-decade slide has left the city owing creditors some $19 billion and under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. The manager has been...
Michael A. Fletcher | The Washington Post 18 Jul 2013 Hits:483 Michigan
In November, Michiganders voted the state's undemocratic Emergency Financial Manager law out of existence. But that didn't keep Snyder and legislators from claiming control of Motor City.
As of today, Detroit…
On Thursday an emergency manager was named for Detroit, Kevyn Orr, a partner in the Jones Day law firm.
MICHAEL STAMPFLER, [email] Available for a limited number of interviews with major…
Teachers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, say that new paycheck cuts are leaving them with so little pay they qualify for food stamps. The teachers, working without a contract, have been…
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder declared the city of Detroit in a state of "fiscal emergency" on Friday afternoon and announced he would appoint a emergency financial manager (EFM)…
On the heels of a lawsuit filed recently in the Ingham County District Court challenging the constitutionality of Michigan’s new Right to Work law, a coalition of unions has filed a…
Michigan’s so-called lame duck legislature passed a remarkable 232 bills in its last week of business. Only one bill, SB 0116 (2011), the so-called Right to Work Bill, passed on…
LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Legislature approved sweeping legislation on Tuesday that vastly reduces the power of organized labor in a state that has been a symbol of…
Newly elected Rep. Dave Curson moved into his spacious, sun-drenched Capitol Hill office three weeks ago, eager to savor every minute of his congressional career.
And relish it he…
Lansing, MI – Many concerned worker gathered in Lansing today as Republican legislators scrambled to move forward two bills that had been dormant in their committees for most of the…
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