Today’s Martin Luther King Day march to Rick Snyder’s home

    I wasn’t able to attend today’s MLK Day march to Governor Snyder’s house, but, fortunately, I was able to draft a few correspondents. Our first report comes courtesy of EMU professor Abby Coykendall.

    As you can see from the pictures, the crowd was far more diverse than at other events, including the protests in Lansing last year, and the Occupy Detroit events a few months past. The atmosphere was strikingly distinct from the predominately union-esque, working-class — though of course also diverse — crowds protesting against Gov. Snyder in Lansing. You could sense the unique, abiding, and perhaps still indispensible power of a Civil Rights-style organizing effort with deep roots in community organizations like the black Baptist church, as befits Martin Luther King, Jr. day.

    I know it’s bathetic and obvious, by the way, but I still cannot believe that someone was so cruel and cold-hearted as to kill such an inspirational, non-violent, and yet historically ground-shaking a person as Martin Luther King, Jr.! What kind of monster would do that anyway?!

    All and all, it was more of a march of people towards something than a static protest against the powers-that-be — the mobility of the people walking en masse itself symbolizing the dire need and the powerful demand for social change. However, perhaps due to the unique affinities brought about by social networking, that Civil Rights-style of protest also seemed to be gradually morphing into a new populist mode without yet quite finding its bearings as to how make that transition or what it would mean to do so. My impression was that everyone there was super friendly and open to making new connections, such as across race, class, gender, religion, or political affiliation. (I had the good fortune of dropping my candle several times and meeting a new interesting person each time who would helpfully pick my candle up as I took blurry photos.) Yet a number of people also seemed a little bit befuddled and nervous as to how to do make those connections, and a few whose conversations I overheard seemed rather wary of the Occupy movement because it represented such a new and thus unpredictable form of protest and community engagement.

    It was of course inspiring to see so many busfuls of people pouring in from across the state, joining together and make a strong statement against this unconstitutional EFM law. Yet it was also not a little depressing to think that these same people were obliged to go to the private home of a corporate-sponsored governor in a gated community in the ultra-privileged city of Ann Arbor to amass together and make that determined will known. It’s almost like the government itself has become a suburban McMansion with the people left — quite literally — outside the gate, even in their act of protest. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a whole Mall to speak to (not a silly mall-mall, as it were), whereas we were marching down a super wealthy neighborhood with obscenely large and stylish houses in the company of people who struggle simply to obtain and keep a home of their own, or who may have outright lost their home through foreclosure.

    Our second report comes from Ypsilanti’s Georgina Susan.

    Hundreds of people showed up for today’s protest against Governor Rick Snyder and his endorsement of the Emergency Manager Act (Public Act 4). Folks streamed out of WCC’s parking lots as they arrived around 4pm, making an impressive line from the campus all the way across the Dixboro bridge and up to Geddes.

    Everyone met up at Parker Mill Park for chanting, hot chocolate, some hard-to-hear speeches, and regrouping (I gather a few of the buses from Detroit were late). From there, the real march up Geddes to the governor’s house began.

    We had the street and were led by a group of five or so African American men. Dressed in their long dark wool coats and singing and chanting in preacher-style voices, it was certainly reminiscent of civil rights marches from Dr. King’s day. They pulled me in, so I ended up at the head of the 1/2 mile hike up the hill to the governor’s gated community.

    “No justice, no peace.”

    “No democracy, no peace.”

    “Hey, hey, ho, ho: emergency managers have got to go”

    “What do we want?” “Democracy!” “When do we want it?” “Now!”

    Once there, folks grouped up to make some more speeches. Here a few other groups, dominated by Detroiters, used the Occupy movement’s “mic check” tactics to relay their speeches. We lit our candles and made the mile or so walk back. Buses had arrived to shuttle those who needed it back to WCC.

    It was a fine group of folks. Veterans of Benton Harbor protests were there, as were people from the tri-cities. High school kids were there with their teachers. UM students made a good showing as well. All were peaceful and reasonable — even when folks from the gated community showed up to gawk.

    I took my kids (9 and 12). They were surprised when I was the only (loud!) voice to answer the first bull-horned call of “Tell me what democracy looks like” with “This is what democracy looks like.” But then others joined in, and my kids relaxed (realizing I was not a wacko, but rather just slightly more “in the know” than those around us). The kids quickly got into the chants and sang “We Shall Overcome” as loudly as I did by the time we reach Parker Mill. My 9 year old even jumped into the front line with me and ‘preachers’ for a while.

    While I have no hard and fast objections to MLK day being a day of service, I feel we, as a society, have softened its potential meaning a bit too much with this association. This is the first time I’ve taken my kids to a protest instead of a service project on this day, but it fostered good discussions for us. King and the civil rights movement in general have become sanitized and stripped of their confrontational and political messages. I wanted my kids to see this side of the movement and feel the responsibility to challenge as well as serve. My kids go to schools in Ypsilanti, a struggling public school system that is vulnerable to the emergency manager legislation. Their stake in what this governor and this legislature does is potentially greater than mine. Today gave me an opportunity to say that to them fairly directly. And they sang. And they chanted. And they felt the power of the group.

    My daughter’s favorite sign (sorry I don’t have a picture of it) read: This is Martin Luther King Jr Day, not King Snyder Day.

    I’ve been enjoying reading the comments left on the AnnArbor.com site. They’re hilarious. Most folks, it would seem, are pissed that “these people” would come in from Detroit, and God knows where else, and close down Geddes for three hours. The word “selfish” is being thrown around a lot, as is the word “intimidation.” Apparently, standing respectfully outside an elected official’s neighborhood, when said official refuses to come to your community, and address you directly, is an act of intimidation. While some of the AnnArbor.com comments support the right of the protesters to air their grievances, most folks, it seems to me, are of the opinion that Detroiters should keep their problems in Detroit, and not disturb our lives of relative comfort…

    Sure, the people of Detroit are having their public libraries closed, and their kids are being forced into classrooms of 60, eliminating any chance they might have of getting a good education, and improving their lot it life, but why should we have to take another route, on this one afternoon, between our gated communities and one of our two Whole Foods stores?

    Clearly, it’s these people from Pontiac, Detroit, and Benton Harbor that are being selfish, and not those of us who are rallying around Snyder for keeping our taxes low, right?

    Regardless of what you might think of these first six cities that were taken over by Emergency Financial Managers, at the behest of the Governor, I don’t see how, in good conscience, anyone could lash out against these struggling people who are being to told to sit by as their elected representatives are being pushed aside, and their community assets are sold off to the highest bidder, all while Michigan businesses are being given generous tax breaks. It’s unconscionable. I can see being disgusted with the inept, and often corrupt, leaders of Detroit, but how can anyone think that the way to remedy the situation is to further cut public school funding, and break contracts with city employees? I’m sorry that you had to cower in fear, behind the curtains of your suburban estates, for a few hours, folks, but these people, who happen to be Michigan tax payers just like you, are being told that their votes don’t count, and that they’re kids aren’t entitled to the same public education that your children are getting. If I were you, I’d stop complaining about having to take a different route to Starbucks, and just be thankful that, for the time being, these folks are just chanting and carrying signs.

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      20 Comments

      1. gary
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 12:18 am | Permalink

        the most hilarious thing i heard at the march was a group of people discussing going to the corner brewery after it was over.

      2. dragon
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 12:38 am | Permalink

        In our time we have come to live with moments of great crisis. Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues; issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression, issues of pairing a Ryeclops Imperial Rye with the proper sharp or pungent cheeses, meat or poultry with a balsamic or fruit glaze. But rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth or abundance, our welfare or our security, our mouthful of distinct rye malt character complimented by the spicy fruity hoppiness of American high-alpha simcoe hops, but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved Nation

      3. Shelley
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 12:51 am | Permalink

        Thanks a lot for sending those correspondents, Mark. I had to work today, so I couldn’t go myself and have been wondering how it went.

      4. Bob Krzewinski
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:14 am | Permalink

        On the closing of Geddes Road, I am sure there were quite a few “upstanding” people upset with Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama as they probably wanted to use the Edmund Pettus Bridge there on a certain Sunday in 1965 and were inconvenienced.

        And on all the people “praying for rain” (on AnnArbor.com) during the march, oh how polite you are! Back in the 60s I am sure you would have had a little different wording on what you would like to have done to the marchers.

      5. Edward
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

        It really does speak volumes about Ann Arbor, doesn’t it? The inhabitants of that prosperous little hamlet love to think of themselves as civil rights pioneers, but what did they really ever do? They smoked pot in the streets and listened to the MC5. They have no right to claim the legacy of the 60s. A lot of people would say that they’ve lost their liberalism. I’d say they never had it in the first place. Praying for freezing rain to fall on the heads of people who are trying to express their frustration at having their communities gutted and sold off in pieces to the wealthy is disgusting. I’ve never been so happy about my choice to live in Ypsilanti.

      6. Eel
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        One of my favorite AnnArbor.com comments:

        “I think in the best interest of all Americans it would be best for the Detroit crowd to just stay in Detroit and work on making their city better……we do not care to have them in our city just like they have made it clear they do not want us in theirs.”

      7. K2
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        Can anyone who was there comment on this statement, left by someone at A2.com?

        so here i’m hearing that it was peaceful…. but then i read this in the detroit free press:

        “But once at the subdivision of million dollar homes, the protest split in two: the group led by a contingent of Detroit religious leaders and another, fueled by By Any Means Necessary, a militant group that uses confrontational tactics.”

        “The militant group stayed for another 40 minutes, crushed up against the gate of Snyder’s subdivision, chanting “Hell no. We won’t go.” And “We are the People’s Army.”

        Were “confrontational tactics” used? It seems like bullshit to me. The article doesn’t say that they were, but they label the group as using them (elsewhere, I guess).

        And I’m sympathetic to the cause, but I think chanting “Hell no, We won’t go” and then leaving 40 minutes later, is kind of silly.

      8. K2
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

        My favorite comment from A2.com:

        “If you want to be rich, instead of envious and judgmental, get a job and earn it.”

      9. Bob
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        “the most hilarious thing i heard at the march was a group of people discussing going to the corner brewery after it was over.”

        Thanks Gary. I’m glad I’m not the only who decided not to give the Corner a pass on their support for Snyder and their even more ridiculous explanation of it. I haven’t set foot in that place since that whole story came out or spent a dollar on an Arbor brew in a store or restaurant.

      10. Posted January 17, 2012 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        Edward,

        I understand your point, but I don’t think your views, as stated, here are any different from the sweeping generalizations made in the annarbor.com’s comments regarding Detroit.

        I am positive that there were many Ann Arborites among the protesters. Also, I doubt that many people protesting are old enough to have seen the MC5.

        I don’t seek a confrontation with you, but I hope you at least consider my point.

        Pete

      11. missypsi
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        I went to the march, as part of an Occupy Ypsi contingent, and I think Abby’s (and Georgina’s) description of the event (and some of its contradictions) captures it perfectly. I have also, read with dismay the comments on Ann Arbor.com, and just for fun, started examining the comments on all articles and opinion pieces covering African Americans, MLK Day events, racism, etc. Guess what? %80 of them were skirting the line of racism, in my opinion. What does this say about Ann Arbor? I’m not sure I’d want to extrapolate based on comments in A2.com, since I suspect there are a fair amount of trolls on the site, as well as disgruntled republicans from Dexter, Chelsea, and surrounding areas. What is striking is just how far we HAVE NOT come since the days of MLK. Indeed, it seems to me that in some ways we are in a worse place, given the current penchant for calling anyone who points out racial contradictions a “racist.” It’s the backwards and upside down world of Prop 2, where taking measures to insure equal access is a form of “reverse racism” and where people who march to defend the autonomy of our cities, and the very democratic principals of our country, are called “classless” (see A2.com comments).

      12. missypsi
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        Favorite moment at the Occupy Democracy march yesterday? Taking pictures of the well-fed (white) gawkers standing on the other side of the police guarded gates as we marched past. I’ll admit to a fair amount of class animus in my nature, but something about watching them watching us made me angrier than I’ve been in a long time. Sure, maybe they were watching in solidarity, but if so, they could have easily hopped the stone wall and joined us. Instead they stood there looking at us with a mixture of confusion and disquietude as if we were some kind of bizarre circus come to town. Second favorite part? The march itself and the sense of strange camaraderie between church ladies, anarchist youth, occupiers, union members, liberals, teachers, children, from all over Michigan. Third favorite part? Going to the Wurst Bar afterwards. They still have some kinks to work out, but their in-house ground sausages are delicious, and their curry bratwurst mini corn dogs are unbelievable!!! They even have vegan sausages for those of you with a conscience. Plus they have a full bar. No more shitty wine at the Corner Brewery for me….

      13. anonymous
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        Can you link to those photos, MissYpsi, or send them to Mark so that he can post them? I heard that rich people ran down to the gates with their camera, but I’ve yet to see proof of it. No doubt they were laughing their asses off.

      14. Tricia
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        This is a powerful quote: “It’s almost like the government itself has become a suburban McMansion with the people left — quite literally — outside the gate, even in their act of protest. ”

        About commenters on aa-dot-com: please don’t take them to be representative of the Ann Arbor population. Many of them don’t seem to live in Ann Arbor. They take advantage of the fact that they can be anonymous (and/or use fake names) and try to strike up trouble. I will only rarely read articles there (just the very few that rise to my “need to know” level) and it’s largely because of the commenters.

      15. Edward
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

        Peter, I think you misunderstood me. I wasn’t saying that yesterday’s protesters had been fans of the MC5. I was saying that Annarbourites, by and large, like to think of themselves as ground-breaking progressive warriors. They rest on the laurels of the 60′s. I was maintaining, however, that, in reality, they didn’t do that much in the 60′s. I’m sure that some did heroic things, but, judging from the people I know, they mainly went to parties with the White Panthers, and talked about nonsense while getting drunk and smoking dope (and having their girlfriends wash their clothes and cook their food, but that’s a different story). You’re right, though, when you say that broad generalizations don’t help anything. I’m guilty of that.

      16. Anonymous Mike
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        Relevant.

        http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35qhrk/

      17. 23 skidoo
        Posted January 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        If you really want to see the people of Ann Arbor get irate, send a shuttle bus of wounded veterans through their neighborhood.

        http://markmaynard.com/?p=14922

      18. alan2102
        Posted January 18, 2012 at 7:14 am | Permalink

        missypsi:
        “I have also read with dismay the comments on Ann Arbor.com, and just for fun, started examining the comments on all articles and opinion pieces covering African Americans, MLK Day events, racism, etc. Guess what? %80 of them were skirting the line of racism, in my opinion. What does this say about Ann Arbor?”

        Edward:
        “Annarbourites, by and large, like to think of themselves as ground-breaking progressive warriors. They rest on the laurels of the 60′s. I was maintaining, however, that, in reality, they didn’t do that much in the 60′s. I’m sure that some did heroic things, but, judging from the people I know, they mainly went to parties with the White Panthers, and talked about nonsense while getting drunk and smoking dope”

        Are ya’ll really surprised?

        These are the products of public school “education”. They grow up to be self-centered assholes driving BMWs and voting for duopoly candidates — typically liberal Democrats, so they can represent themselves as “progressive” — and to hell with anyone who falls through the cracks (to say nothing of the tens of millions who get sanctioned into starvation or bombed to bits, overseas). We gave them a “good education” which “improved their lot in life”, as Mark puts it. And this is the result. Rich, self-absorbed, careerist, objectively racist assholes who react in predictably right-wing fashion to the slightest expression of dissent. Obama himself is not a bad representative of the genre: No progressive substance whatsoever; ALL image and pretense; objectively reactionary.

      19. cmadler
        Posted January 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        “The militant group stayed for another 40 minutes, crushed up against the gate of Snyder’s subdivision, chanting “Hell no. We won’t go.” And “We are the People’s Army.”

        Were “confrontational tactics” used? It seems like bullshit to me. The article doesn’t say that they were, but they label the group as using them (elsewhere, I guess).

        Confrontation requires two parties. A locked gate being an inanimate object, it can’t really be “confronted”.

      20. cmadler
        Posted January 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        While I have no hard and fast objections to MLK day being a day of service, I feel we, as a society, have softened its potential meaning a bit too much with this association…King and the civil rights movement in general have become sanitized and stripped of their confrontational and political messages. I wanted my kids to see this side of the movement and feel the responsibility to challenge as well as serve.

        I agree. I was a bit disheartened that the MLK discussion at my daughter’s day care centered around “He wanted us to get along with each other.” I mean, “getting along with each other” is a perfectly good message to convey to 3- and 4-year-olds, but it’s pretty disconnected from MLK’s actual message, which, boiled down to a 3-year-old level, might be more like “when things aren’t right, you have to speak up” or something like that.

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