Occupy Detroit protested ongoing foreclosures at the BOA branch on the corner of Griswold and Congress in downtown Detroit last Friday. I reported on the event for a local newspaper and I thought I might also post it here. It may be a little unsophisticated for people here who are already well informed about the movement, but I thought you would like to be informed about the event. This is my first post at FDL though I have been lurking here for years and commenting on occasion. I have photos and video if anyone would like to see them.
Occupy Detroit protests at BOA
Saturday, October 22, 2011
On Friday at noon, a large crowd gathered downtown near the corner of Congress and Griswold in front of Bank of America to protest continuing home foreclosures in the face of catastrophic economic decline, in Detroit and around the nation — a decline which was caused, certainly in part, by the underhanded dealings of big financial institutions like BOA.
Protestors carried signs, waved banners and shouted slogans as they demonstrated, projecting their growing anger and frustration with a system they see as rigged: a system that favors the few at the top who have the money and the power to buy influence and avoid accountability.
After the demonstration was over the crowd gathered to listen as people gave speeches, employing the now familiar people’s mic, first utilized at the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York, where the crowd repeats what the speaker is saying so everyone can hear. Then they marched on to Grand Circus Park where Occupy Detroit has set up a tent city. To the beat of a drum fashioned out of a garbage can and to the blaring of police sirens, they waved their placards and sang as they marched.
“Hey, Hey BOA, how many homes did you take today?”
The protest against BOA was organized by Occupy Detroit — an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began little more than a month ago with a handful of protesters camped out in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan to protest the bailout of Wall Street while Main Street continues to suffer. The movement has spread rapidly to cities across the nation as people take to the streets to draw attention to their belief that our democracy has been co-opted.
The protest, Occupy Detroit’s third in a week, which was monitored by the Detroit police, lasted about two hours and went off without a hitch, rowdy but peaceful. It drew a diverse crowd of more than 150 people of all ages: young and old, black and white, workers from the UAW and observers from the National Lawyers Guild. The signs they carried and the slogans they chanted reflected the diversity of their demands — ending foreclosures, ending the war, marriage equality, having jobs and fair pay — but a common thread ran through it all: we have an unfair economic system where the odds are stacked against us.
Over the past few decades, the vast majority of people in this country have seen their incomes decline to the point where just surviving is a struggle while the few at the top have continued to prosper, accumulating a bigger and bigger portion of the nation’s wealth. Such income inequality is seen as unfairness.
Members of the Occupy Wall Street movement believe that they represent the 99 percent of the population who have been hurt by rules that favor the rich and powerful. They are united in the belief that we must introduce a mechanism for fairness and accountability into the system so that it can’t be hijacked. They want change and they think the numbers are on their side.
Marching through the streets of Detroit to Grand Circus Park where the tent city sprang up a week ago, the crowd chants: “Tell me what democracy looks like? This is what democracy looks like.”
At the park, a small enclave with over 50 tents, the march ended and protestors dispersed as people lined up for sandwiches. A few men who said they lived on the streets and had joined the protest, huddled around a jerry-rigged campfire to get warm.
Standing in front of her soggy tent, Jill –she said she would prefer to use her first name only– a film and journalism student at Oakland Community College, said she’s been living at the camp all week. She said she thinks the Occupy Detroit movement will make a difference and that they’re not going anywhere even when there’s bad weather. (It rained for the past two days.) She said the numbers “were strong” and that even when it gets colder, she believed that while less people might be sleeping there at night, they would still come out in the day. She said Occupy Detroit members are in the process of building a shelter against the cold weather that’s coming and that they’re taking donations from anyone who wants to help. “Give us everything you have,” she said, laughing.
Standing with her friend at the entrance to the park behind a sign that says “Morals Not Money” Josephine J. Coppola, 79, says she took a bus downtown to join the protest and that she’s a “raging” liberal and she’s proud of it. She said she’d like to tell people to look at states where Republicans have taken over and see what happened. “Do you want that to happen to the rest of the country?” she asked. She said that in November people should get out and vote for President Obama, even if they don’t agree with him. “The alternative is worse,” she said, “And maybe we can push him where we want him to be.”
Asked if she’s ever done anything like this before, she answered, “Yes. I’ve been an activist all my life.”