The Motor City spirit is undeniable at Occupy Detroit. In spite of the steady, cold rain, the movement has been growing steadily since its inception the last week. Over 300 people marched on Bank of America on Friday, carrying a golden calf as a symbol of false idols of Wall Street and chanting “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!”
One hour before the scheduled Occupy Detroit march at the downtown Detroit of Bank of America, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Over 300 people converged in front of the historic Guardian Building at Griswold and Congress during the downtown lunch hour, an unexpectedly large crowd from a city beleaguered by necessary and justifiable causes, for a city burdened by historic levels of unemployment, challenged unions, and reduced resources everywhere.
They came from the wetlands of Grand Circus Park, from office buildings, from parking lots, from home kitchens, from elementary school classrooms, from the grocery store, from churches and from art studios. They walked, rode bicycles, drove by waving and honking, and came grouped from various organizations. Some had dogs, some dressed colorfully, some were waving signs, some were chanting, and some were playing garbage can drums. Some were college age, some were parents and some were grand parents, some were unemployed, some are retired, and some were using cameras like life-saving equipment.
They marched on Bank of America carrying a large golden calf to represent Wall Street, as they chanted, “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!”
Watch here, courtesy of Sheleem Media Services for PoliticusUSA:
Linda Jackson, a retired teacher, explained that she was joining Occupy Detroit because she was fed up with the inequities and wanted to support the occupiers. Ms. Jackson worked in the public school system for 30 years and yet between sending her son to college and taking care of her mother at home, finances are beyond tight. Ms. Jackson said, “I’m tired of what’s happening to our country. Public labor, police officers, firefighters, public school teachers, hospital workers, the people who are moving this country forward are being attacked by the corporate entities. The fact is, you almost can’t live anymore. The price of gas, the price of food, the challenges of trying to meet your house note, your insurance note, it’s just impossible.”
Pointing to Bank of America behind her, Ms. Jackson articulated what so many Americans are feeling, “And everyday, you see where Banks of America are getting bailed out, but they’re demanding money from you! And you get any relief. You can’t even– Not only that, you don’t get a raise, they cut what you already have. I can’t believe how they expect us to live. It’s insane.”
Asked if she was surprised about Occupy Detroit, she said, “No, it’s long overdue. I’m happy that it’s here; I wonder why it took so long to get here.” Then, noting the easy going police in the background, Ms. Jackson said, “Well, they’re part of this thing too!”
While it may have taken Americans a while to wake up, now that they have, their grit and determination to fight for their liberty is palpable and contagious. It’s been raining steadily since last Sunday when Occupying Detroit began, but that didn’t deter the movement from growing. The Occupy Detroit campers in Grand Circus Park in downtown Detroit were sodden, dripping, and beyond chilled in the below 50 degree temperature. The mud seemed to grow in depth and width; walking pathways were depressed, almost trenches. Tents were draped in tarps and most people were also draped — in plastic tablecloths, plastic ponchos, smaller tarps, or trash bags.
Occupiers were joined later in the week by local veterans of homelessness, perhaps the “first” Occupy Detroit folks; here are people who already know how to do this. For these experienced street-livers, this encampment is safer than under a freeway overpass, food donations are brought in frequently, and suddenly they matter in a new way – people are talking to them. Younger people are learning from them. And perhaps most importantly they are welcome and they do not have to ask for basic essentials.
The young people were radiant in purpose and determination. Their faces glowed from under their soggy hoods and glistening rivulets of continuing rain. Droplets of iridescent transparency curve around their smiles as they repeatedly express gratitude for all the support that Detroit is giving them, and this cause.
Still the rain came. Water dripped from clothes hanging on a line. Informational papers were wet, softened pulp beyond legibility. Writing pens were slippery. Fingers were cold, fumbling, but the spirit of the Motor City would not be denied.
All of them are angry about the injustices that have made Occupy USA necessary and inevitable. All of them felt the urgency and opportunity to express what is their “job” as citizens to express: Outrage at the dangerously out-of-balance financial systems and the inequities produced by deregulation of those systems. One poignant example of unconscionable “shared sacrifices” is the fact that in Michigan, the vast majority of those who will be affected by the current change in Michigan’s welfare policy will be the children of hardworking families.
All of the Occupiers feel so fiercely about the inequities being perpetrated on the American people that they are willing to camp in cold rain and snow for 60 days in order to make their point.
The march on Bank of America was not only peaceful, but it was also musical, joyful and exuberant. Relaxed and smiling police officers seemed to enjoy it; participants certainly did. This profound spirit of community surrounds Occupy Detroit, and lightens the work ahead, that of reclaiming our democracy.
Occupy Detroit is planning on occupying Grand Circus Park for 60 days, which means they’re planning on camping through the freezing northern winter. In the same way that they came together, without knowing exactly what to do next, I am completely confident that this group of Occupy Detroit will do the next right thing. They have inspired, challenged, and reminded us of what is necessary to achieve the possible.
Their cause, which is our cause, is of a wrong so big and so simple that it cannot be fully articulated; the future writers of history will have that job. The problem and the solution are of course equity. Perhaps the occupiers are doing their job of waking up the rest of us.
Perhaps it is our job to determine the next step.
To help Occupy Detroit, supplies and donations can be sent to:
Central United Methodist Church
Reverend Edward Rowe
23 East Adams
Detroit, Mich 48226
(marked: Occupy Detroit)
Photos: Sheleem Media Services for PoliticusUSA