Sunday, November 6, 2011

Labor Joins Occupy Detroit In Solidarity March

I joined a march through Detroit today, along with several labor unions, and the protesters from Occupy Detroit. (see: Unions rally with Occupy Detroit) It was the first time I did a march. It felt a little surreal to chant the slogans I had heard so many times on LiveStream. It was like stepping through the fourth wall. But it felt good. And it felt sad, too -- so many good people, hard-working people, the people who build and maintain our society are on their knees, brought low by a regressive tax system, and offshoring of jobs under the spectre of free trade, which is anything but free. Free-trade cost Detroit its prosperity. Free-trade, offshoring, and bad tax policy cost the United states its broad, inclusive prosperity. That and corrupt government bought by incompetent, criminally venal corporate management.

Things will change, though. They have to. Folks are getting up off their knees, and they are angry. The question is, how much worse will the economy and the environment get before the country -- the entire country -- stands up and boots corporations and corrupt politicians out of our government.

Here's some pics:

The labor march -- union members, occupiers, sympathetic citizens -- arrives at Grand Circus Park, Detroit

Marchers gather at the base of the Hazen Pingree statue to hear speeches from labor leaders and occupiers.

Occupier Art

Sandwiches prepared by volunteers and given to anyone who was hungry.

A quote from Hazen Pingree, a visionary, progressive, four-term Detroit mayor and twice Michigan governor. He was one of the first to warn against unfettered corporate influence in the public sphere. A plaque on  a statue of Pingree in Grand Circus Park, where the occupiers are camped reads: “The citizens of Michigan erect this monument to the cherished memory of Hazen S. Pingree. A gallant soldier, an enterprising and successful citizen, four times elected mayor of Detroit, twice governor of Michigan. He was the first to warn the people of the great danger threatened by powerful private corporations. And the first to awake to the great inequalities in taxation and to initiate steps for reform. The idol of the people. He died June 18, MDCCCI, aged 60 years.”

Signs left behind by marchers, and preserved near the fountain.

The campsite.

"Comfort" -- protesters provide food, blankets & clothing to homeless as well as occupiers.

"This is what peaceful revolution looks like."

Chalked on the fountain: "Superman never made any money saving the world from Solomon Grundy"

One Occupier

I met an occupier named Martin (not his real name -- he deserves a little privacy). He camps at OccupyDetroit. He always liked camping, he said. Now maybe he doesn't have a choice. I did not ask a lot of questions, but he told me a few things. Martin has lived in many places: Alaska, California, Florida, North Carolina, and now Michigan. He looked young and fit. I would be surprised if he was over thirty. He struck me as smart and personable.

He spoke of family members who died of unfortunate afflictions. He seemed to flinch a little at their recollection, as though the memories sting. These deaths affected the stability of the family he grew up in. His father disappeared and he and his mother moved into an uncle's place. The uncle was one of a set of triplets, two of whom subsequently died.

He told me he does not drink. He can't. He did and it did not work out for him, and now he doesn't. He's seen a lot ugly things in his life. He's seen people fall down and stay down -- people close to him. And my impression was that he does not want to be one of them. He said he'd like a job; that he lost his identification documents; that he is trying to reacquire these documents so he can get a job. For now, he is a camper at OccupyDetroit.

Martin stands as one of the troops, peacefully -- quietly -- breaking down the barricades of injustice for the rest of us. He shivers in the dark through cold nights, he shakes off the rain when the wind blows it in his face and there is nothing to do but duck, and he waits for the sun to shine again, and bring a little warmth into his external existence. Martin is not lost -- he is young, and vigorous, and sharp -- but the rest of us will be lost if we do not create a society that offers a guy like Martin a little help to get on his feet. I think if help were offered, he would take it and thrive. And probably return the favor. We need that society now.