Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, speaking outside the federal building in downtown Detroit on May Day 2012. Azikiwe spoke against US imperialist wars around the world. (Photo: Rueben Ism), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Protesters march in Detroit as part of May Day rallies
May 2, 2012
By Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
Approximately 300 to 400 protesters with Occupy Detroit and supporting groups walked through Detroit on Tuesday as part of the worldwide May Day rallies.
In contrast to other cities that saw clashes with police, the protests in Detroit were peaceful, and no arrests were made.
There was a brief standoff in Grand Circus Park with police as some protesters tried to set up a tent, but they relented after officers asked them not to pitch the tent.
The protesters started at noon in Clark Park in southwest Detroit, where immigrant and Latino advocates gathered with them to call for an end to deportations. The crowd then walked to the abandoned Michigan Central Station, the federal building in downtown Detroit, a bus station and then Grand Circus Park -- the site of an encampment last fall by Occupy Detroit. At the front of the crowd, protesters carried two big banners that read "Occupy Detroit" and "May Day 2012."
Chanting "banks got bailed out, we got sold out," they walked though city streets in a protest against growing income inequality and what they say is the excessive power of Wall Street, corporations and the top 1%. At Grand Circus Park, protesters ate hummus and tabbouleh served from a table as speakers and musicians addressed the crowd from a microphone. Four police officers on horseback and other officers were in the park keeping watch.
The Detroit rally was supported by some local unions, immigrant groups, environmental groups and leftist organizations. May 1 is a day that traditionally has seen demonstrations by labor or immigrant groups.
May 1 rallies are rooted in an incident in Chicago in 1886 called the Haymarket affair, which saw clashes between labor activists and police.
Contact Niraj Warikoo: 313-223-4792 or firstname.lastname@example.org
May 2, 2012
May Day gets Occupy Detroit protesters revved up
By JOSH KATZENSTEIN AND LAUREN ABDEL-RAZZAQ / The Detroit News
Detroit — In October, Jessica Dawl was among the first volunteers to organize and serve food to the Occupy Detroit protesters camped out at Grand Circus Park.
On Tuesday, sporting a bandanna, sunglasses and a smile, she was back at the park taking donations and handing out cookies to people waiting in line for free food.
"This is a reminder," the 26-year-old said, "to let the public know that we are still here."
Dawl was one of about 200 protesters who converged on Grand Circus Park on Tuesday afternoon, clamoring for reform for immigration, education and other issues as part of a May Day celebration.
Members of Occupy Detroit and other groups gathered to listen to a live band, to enjoy vegetarian dishes and to pass out fliers. The occupiers' request for an overnight permit was rejected, said Inspector Don Johnson of the Detroit Police Department. When some protesters tried to set up a tent, police circled them and told them to remove it.
Grand Circus Park closes at 10 p.m. and protesters moved out of the area they had been camping at to comply with police warnings.
Four mounted police and six uniformed officers patrolled the area Tuesday evening. Police didn't expect the protesters to interfere with the Tigers game at nearby Comerica Park.
Thomas Mahler, an Occupy Detroit supporter, said: "Even if we can't stay here tonight, we will be camping this summer. We'll be back and the city will continue to waste money," the 24-year-old said. "Out of all the city's problems, Occupy Detroit setting up tables to feed the homeless shouldn't be one of them."
Earlier in the day, about 250 people walked from Clark Park to Maybury Elementary, one of two public schools in southwest Detroit in danger of closing.
Protesters also walked past Western International High School, shouting, "Save our schools," and "Education, not deportation."
"We have to be the change we want to see in this city," said 15-year-old Katinah Milligan, a ninth-grader at the Detroit School of Arts.
The group also walked through Mexicantown to the abandoned Michigan Central Station.
Occupy Detroit Disperses After May Day Rally
The Huffington Post | By David Sands Posted: 05/ 2/2012 6:30 pm Updated: 05/ 2/2012 6:39 pm
After leaving Grand Circus Park Tuesday night, approximately 20 Occupy Detroit protesters moved to occupying the statue at Campus Martius Park around 11:15 p.m.
Detroit Police Department officers enforcing a 10 p.m. curfew cleared a group of about 20 Occupy Detroit members out of Grand Circus Park Tuesday night. Earlier that evening, members of the organization had pledged to spend the night at the park, where they had set up an earlier Occupy Wall Street-inspired protest encampment last fall.
The overnight protest came after a day of marching and activity to celebrate May Day, coordinated with protests and Occupy movement actions around the country.
There were no arrests, but Occupiers called the police presence dramatic.
"There were about 50 police lined up in a phalanx," said Occupy Detroit member Erik Shelley, who was present Tuesday night. "Police cars lined up entire length of the park. There was a black bus for taking people away."
The Detroit Police Department would not verify the number of officers deployed that evening, and a spokeswoman did not return a request for further comment.
Occupy Detroit member Mark Tucker said police pulled a device, which he thought was a sound cannon, from a suitcase and pointed it at a small crowd gathered by the Hazen S. Pingree statue at the corner of Woodward and Adams. (Shelley said he thought the device was a P.A. system.) Tucker said an officer then declared the gathering an illegal assembly and asked the crowd to disperse.
According to Tucker, members of the group told police they had a legal right to assemble on the public sidewalk, but were unable to persuade the officers to let them stay.
Attorney Kathy Murphy, who monitored the protest as a legal observer for the National Lawyers Guild, said it was her understanding that police refused to allow people to sit on the sidewalk because they considered it part of the park.
"It's my opinion, and that of the NLG, that people have a first amendment right to be on the sidewalk at any hour as long as they're not interfering with pedestrian traffic," she said.
The group took consensus and decided to leave the scene, even though some members had said they were willing to risk arrest. The two-dozen Occupiers then moved on to rally with signs at another nearby Campus Martius Park, then proceeded to march along Woodward Ave. until approximately 7 a.m. Wednesday morning. Tucker called a this activity a "mobile encampment."
Tucker said he's glad the group stuck up for members' constitutional right to assemble, even though they did not end up spending the night in the park.
Sarah Coffey, another member of Occupy Detroit who was present during the confrontation with police, said it was a learning experience for younger members about what to expect from law enforcement.
"They were definitely sending a clear message that things are not going to be the same as last year," she said.
Occupy Detroit had a largely positive relationship with the Detroit Police Department during its month-long encampment in Grand Circus Park last fall. Activists chose to leave the park voluntarily when their permit expired in mid-November.