Occupy Detroit, Unions, Clergy Demand End to Foreclosures

March from Bank of America. Credit: Natasha Louis

By Evan Rohar for Occupy Detroit Media

As Occupy Wall Street and the Communications Workers of America prepared to rally against corporate power at Verizon Headquarters today, Occupy Detroit marched from its base camp in Grand Circus Park to Bank of America, demanding an end to foreclosures in Michigan. The state ranked fourth in the country for foreclosures in December 2010, with one foreclosure on every 282 homes.

Chanting “From New York, to LA, occupy the USA,” the crowd of 200 filtered onto Woodward and headed toward Griswold. They turned the corner to find a contingent of Autoworkers (UAW) and other union and community supporters in a rally already under way. Rank-and-filers from the State and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Teamsters (IBT), and Teachers (AFT) unions had joined the UAW at noon in front of the historic Guardian Building, home of Bank of America’s Detroit headquarters.

By 12:30pm, the crowd had outgrown the sidewalk and spilled into the adjacent street. Police were ready with metal barricades to contain protesters in a small section of the street.

“We need to do something about foreclosures. The banks got the bailout, we got the shaft. The UAW is out to support working class people, whoever you are,” said a Chrysler factory worker.

Sister Moon, an official with the Metro Detroit Labor Council, was gladdened and encouraged by the movement. “It’s very important for the community to know that labor supports Occupy Detroit.”

Ed Rowe, pastor at Central United Methodist Church, declared through a bullhorn, “If you’re going to a house of worship and people aren’t out in the streets with you, what are you doing there?” He called on people to mobilize their communities of faith to fight injustice.

Linda Jackson, a Detroit teacher retiree, said she came out to protest the financial giant because of the effect foreclosures have on schools. “How can you concentrate on what you’re doing if you’re afraid you’ll be out on the street?” she asked, relating that she knows many teachers in danger of losing their homes. “Students are facing the same challenges.”

Police were powerless to stop the march of about 150 that broke away and roamed Greektown for miles, sounding more petulant than authoritative in their requests that protesters leave a lane open.

National Lawyers Guild “green hats” were on hand as legal observers and advised demonstrators throughout the un-permitted action. No arrests were made.

A city worker and AFSCME Local 1583 member stepped into the street and joined the impromptu march during a break. “I came to see what the people are up to,” she said. “The people are pretty pissed off.”

As Occupy Detroit and rank-and-file unionists marched together through the thoroughfares of Detroit, their voices lifted a version of “While the Saints go Marching In” onto the chilly fall air. “Well you’re gonna see a revolution, when Detroit goes marching in,” they sang. The refrain lasted for much of the route, bubbling up several different times.

Protesters felt a spirit of defiance not often expressed in the city. “People are so afraid, usually,” said Jasmine Geary, a publicist and member of the Occupy Detroit media team. “But everybody’s got each other’s backs today.”


A version of this article is published at Labor Notes