Monday, April 04, 2011

Thousands Demonstrate in Downtown Detroit for Worker and Civil Rights

Hundreds march for worker rights in Detroit

7:59 PM, Apr. 4, 2011

A group of local ministers, community leaders, citizens and rank-and-file workers from across metro Detroit — a crowd several hundred strong — marched through downtown Detroit to Hart Plaza this evening for a rally promoted as a way to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but that also focused on worker rights.

Today marks the 43rd anniversary of King’s assassination while supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis.

The crowd chanted slogans like “They say cutback, we say fight back,” and “Bankers got bailed out, workers got sold out,” and carried signs and banners to the plaza’s Labor Legacy Monument. The event was organized by the Detroit metro AFL-CIO and AFSCME Council 25.

Saundra Williams, president of Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, was among those who spoke to the crowd. She said it was fitting to gather in prayer, the group’s most powerful weapon, to honor Dr. King.

“This is all the power in the world. There isn’t anything that we can’t do,” she said, urging the crowd to fight back. “As long as we are one, we can accomplish anything.”

Carl Peters, a postal employee and a member of the American Postal Workers Union, said he was attending the rally in support of the public sector workers.

“This is a rally in support of the right to collective bargaining, the right to have unions and against budget cuts,” he said. “The workers have rights, too. We’re tired of the banks being bailed out while the working people suffer.”

Garrick Simpson, 57, of Detroit, a member of AFSCME Local 542, has been employed with Detroit Parks and Recreation for 28 years.

“We’re protesting the recent actions by Mayor (Dave) Bing and Gov. (Rick) Snyder. They don’t have the right to mess with our pensions and jobs. We’ve had enough, and we can’t take any more concessions. Hopefully, they should get the point that it’s the people who run the city.”

Charles Bailey of Detroit, a retired MichCon employee and AFL-CIO member, said he came to the rally to support unions, but also offered his thoughts on life in Detroit.

“I was raised in Black Bottom, and it seems like the whole city is Black Bottom now,” he said, referring to the difficult conditions in the old Detroit neighborhood. “There’s nothing but blight and destruction on every corner. The politicians don’t care about our kids, our safety or our city services.”

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