It's been tense in Detroit recently. The city has a $327 million deficit and owes $14 billion, says the Detroit Free Press. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in March that he would appoint a emergency manager to oversee city finances. Detroit's City Council had 10 days to file an appeal, which they did, says The Detroit News. Then Thursday, the governor announced that Kevyn Orr, a Washington, D.C., attorney who handled Chrysler's bankruptcy would take charge. Emergency management is a touchy subject in the Motor City; the appointment caused some local residents to protest a controller who will wrest city reins from elected officials.
Planned Traffic Slowdown Protest
To express frustration and draw attention to state-appointed emergency management, planned traffic jams were organized in the city this week, says WWJ CBS Detroit. WWJ's Chopper 950, flying over the city on Monday, noted three cars on major highways crawling along (driving under 5 miles per hour). This caused traffic to back up. Slowdowns were staged on I-75, I-94, and the Lodge Freeway. State police arrived, angled their cruisers sideways to block traffic, and spoke to vehicle occupants. One car got around the police blockade and drove away. The vehicle wasn't pursued, but occupants of the other cars were questioned. One participant dubbed it a "freedom flash mob."
The Detroit Free Press reports that protesters have slowed down freeway traffic four times over the past week during morning rush hours. Lt. Michael Shaw of the Michigan State Police told the paper, "We're 100-percent right behind the freedom of speech and the right to protest, we just don't want people to protest on the freeway system."
Pastor D. Alexander Bullock, key organizer of the group Change Agent Consortium, which was responsible for the traffic protest, was one of the protest vehicle occupants yesterday. He says the point was to open eyes to the struggle for basic freedoms in Detroit. Bullock and another man were handcuffed and placed in a squad car. Both were later released with no arrests made or tickets written. The incident remains under investigation. I called Rev. Bullock to ask why they chose this method of protest. He said, "Rosa Parks sat down in the wrong seat on the right bus. And she broke the law. Because that law violated her human dignity. We slowed down to the wrong speed on right freeway. And we broke the law. Because emergency management violates our human dignity."
Other demonstrations occurred at Detroit's City Hall and at the attorney general's office downtown in connection with the governor's EM announcement. I spoke with Detroiter Charles Brown, staff member of Krystal Crittendon for Mayor Campaign. He was at both protests. Of the mission, he explained, "Detroit voted 80 percent to repeal Public Act 4 [the emergency manager law]. This is strong evidence that Detroit electors don't want an EM in the city. The struggle continues; victory is certain. We are not going to give up the fight. We have a federal lawsuit prepared. This is taxation without representation."
An educator and Michigan native, Marilisa Sachteleben writes about people, places, events, and issues in her state's most pivotal city of Detroit.