Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Presidential Candidate Cynthia McKinney Visits Detroit During Labor Day Weekend

Presidential Candidate Cynthia McKinney Visits Detroit for Labor Day

Former Georgia Congresswoman speaks on war, repression and the legacy of Katrina

by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

DETROIT--Labor Day weekend is always an important time in the city of Detroit. Known as the "Motor City", this metropolitan region is the home to hundreds of thousands of organized and unorganized workers. The legacies of the Hunger March and the Flint sit-down strike of the 1930s remains in the collective consciousness of workers despite the decades-long attempt by the capitalist ruling class to suppress the actual history of labor movement in the United States.

What made this year's Labor Day significant was the visit of Green Party Presidential Candidate Cynthia McKinney who is traveling throughout the country providing an alternative perspective and program to the two dominant political parties in the United States. McKinney, who served for 12 years in the United States Congress representing her district in Georgia, is running alongside activist and hip-hop artist Rosa Clemente. Clemente is pursuing the office of the vice-presidency.

At a campaign rally on August 30, McKinney spoke to a capacity audience at the International Institute located in the University Cultural District in Detroit. At the beginning of this rally, Michigan political prisoner, Rev. Edward Pinkney, addressed the crowd through a video presentation that was taped from the prison where he is being held on trumped-up charges stemming from his organizing work in Berrien County.

Rev. Pinkney was selected as the Green Party candidate for United States Congress in the same district where he worked to overturn decades of institutional racism, police brutality and corporate control over the political direction of the city of Benton Harbor. This activist for the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO) in Benton Harbor, was sentenced to 3-10 years in state prison for quoting biblical scriptures.

McKinney in her address stated that "I first heard of Benton Harbor in 2003 when there was a young man killed by the police which sparked several days of rebellion, our own intifada." McKinney said that this response must be viewed within the context of the international situation of oppressed people throughout the world.

"People all over the world are liberating themselves. In Paraguay, a former priest, who is a liberation theologist, was recently voted in as president because the people felt free enough to select a leader who represented their hopes and not their fears," McKinney stated.

She later discussed the crisis in Mexico two years ago when the popular choice for president was denied the right to take office. McKinney drew an analogy between the rigging of elections in the United States in 2000 and 2004 with what transpired in Mexico during 2006.

"When people showed up their names were not on the ballot. The masses shutdown the capital for five months and set up a shadow government, McKinney continued.

"The reason why so many people immigrate to the United States from Mexico is that the so-called 'free trade' policies such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was put in place under a Democratic administration, has helped to destroy their economy."

"In a recent referendum in Mexico," McKinney said, the people rejected efforts to privatize water, electricity and oil."

The former Congresswoman spoke out against the militarist and interventionist policies of the United States. She criticized the $700 billion annual defense budget which she said could be utilized to correct the overall economic crisis in the country.

McKinney spoke to the current crisis in mortgage foreclosures and expressed her support for the Michigan campaign to win a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. Prior to McKinney's speech, Detroit Green Party co-chair and candidate for State Representative in the 7th District, Derrick Grigsby, encouraged the audience to join the upcoming September 17 march on the state capital in Lansing that is being organized by the Moratorium Now Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions.

Grigsby pointed out that the Moratorium Now Coalition is mobilizing people all over the state to go to Lansing to demand the immediate passage of Senate Bill 1306, sponsored by State Senator Hansen Clarke. The bill, if passed, would impose a two year moratorium on foreclsoures in Michigan.

The failure of Democrats to defend the Black vote

McKinney, who served six terms in the US Congress as a Democrat, resigned from the political organization last year, declaring her independence from the ruling class two-party system.

"Republican theft and Democratic Party complicity is why Bush is in the White House today. The Democratic Party did not defend the Black votes that were stolen in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. It was the Green Party that pursued legal cases against voter fraud in Ohio during the aftermath of the national elections in 2004."

"When Black, Brown, Asian and white people come together the country can move forward." McKinney received a standing ovation for her speech.

On August 31, McKinney was a featured guest on the "Fighting For Justice" radio program aired weekly on AM 1310, the local affiliate of Air America in the Detroit area. The program, which is sponsored by the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, focused heavily on the then impending arrival of Hurricane Gustav in the Gulf region and New Orleans in particular.

McKinney, who was discouraged from holding a Congressional hearing on the failure of the Bush administration to provide effective relief for the victims of the Hurricane Katrina in 2005, questioned the ability of the federal government to protect the people in the face of other natural disasters in 2008.

"I along with other Democratic Congresspeople were told not to participate in the hearings by the party leadership. The reason why there is a Republican Governor today in Louisiana is directly related to the removal of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom were African-Americans, from the state of Louisiana."

Labor Day in Detroit

On Sept. 1 over 100,000 people participated in the annual Labor Day march down Woodward avenue. Delegations from numerous trade union organizations including the UAW, AFSCME, Unite Here, SEIU, AFL-CIO, the Teamsters and others marched through the streets in their union colors chanting pro-labor slogans.

Members of the Moratorium Now Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions were set up in Grand Circus Park located along the route of the march. They distributed thousands of leaflets to workers and through a public address system, spoke in support of a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions while encouraging workers to come to Lansing on Sept. 17 for the statewide march at the capital building.

In addition, Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate for President in November, spoke at the rally after the march in Hart Plaza on the Detroit River. People of all races and nationalities lined up outside Hart Plaza to hear Obama. He was joined on stage by leading officials of the major trade union organizations based in the Detroit area.

At the Anchor restaurant, which caters to union members in downtown Detroit, Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney attended a reception in her honor in the aftermath of the Labor Day march.

"I have a 100% voting record in support of labor," McKinney said. "The conditions today require us to do things that have never been done before. This is why I declared my independence from the Democratic Party."

Another speaker at the reception for McKinney was Ron Scott, a long time media personality who was the co-founder of the Detroit chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968. Scott is currently the spokesperson for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality.

Scott said that "the only way to make change is through the people. Her (McKinney) candidacy and movement represents the struggle. Today we are facing a nationalization of law-enforcement. The Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) never left but only changed its form."

"Republicans put a woman on their ticket," Scott continued. However, this party has put a real freedom fighter on its ticket."

McKinney concluded by expressing her admiration for the legacy of the Black Panther Party and other organizations that have challenged the system of racism. She pointed out that during her tenure in Congress she sought to investigate and highlight the crimes committed by the United States goverment against those who fought for the liberation of the African-American people.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire. Azikiwe's articles have appeared in numerous publications throughout the world.

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