[A-List] DPD & OCCUPY: "Detroit's NOT Oakland..."
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Thu May 3 06:51:56 MDT 2012
DPD & OCCUPY: "Detroit's NOT Oakland..."
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by: Diane Gee
Thu May 03, 2012 at 08:12:37 AM EDT
all images within used with the kind permission of the talented
Richard Etue - thanks!
In fact, say what you will about my city. Our cops rock for the most
part. I know they thought my kid rocked.
Oh, there were a few heated discussions, but at the end of the day?
They let Occupy Detroit even spend the night on May Day.
Let me tell you the story of the time my son Jake and I spent there on Tuesday.
Diane Gee :: DPD & OCCUPY: "Detroit's NOT Oakland..."
PhotobucketWe packed 6 water bottles in an old backpack and dutifully
took out permanent markers to bring with us to create signs, stopping
to mark down the emergency numbers on our bodies in case of arrest. I
chose my foot, not wanting to sport it for a month at work. Jake did
the same. We headed out towards Grand Circus Park around noon,
stopping to buy a couple posterboards at CVS out of the 20 dollars I
had borrowed from Jake. The march was starting at Clark Park but I
had no idea how to get back there after the March and they were
calling for thunderstorms. My plan was to park at GCP, and back-walk
the route until we met the protestors, then spin around and return
I pulled onto the freeway excited to make some time and get down
there, and immediately realized I had reflexively headed the opposite
way (towards my job in Ann Arbor) as soon as I made the turn - just
too late to abort it, so I had to enter US23 South and go a mile and
turn around and reenter North. "Oh, Jesus," I laughed, "I'm worried
about getting lost in Detroit and I get lost in my own neighborhood?"
We rolled with laughter.
Only me.... yeah, I know... heh.
12 p.m. assemble at Clark Park, Clark Street near I-75 Fischer Freeway
1 p.m. rally at Maybury Elementary School, 4410 Porter Street
1:30 p.m. leave Maybury Elementary marching on West Vernon Highway
2:00 p.m. rally at train station, Roosevelt Park at West Vernon
Highway and Michigan Avenue
2:30 p.m. leave train station on Michigan Avenue
3:15 p.m. rally at Federal Building
3:45 p.m. leave Federal Building
4:00 p.m. rally at Rosa Parks Transit Center, 360 Michigan Avenue
4:30 p.m. leave Rosa Parks Transit Center
4:30 p.m. start assembling at Grand Circus Park
6:30 p.m. general assembly at Grand Circus Park
I took a good couple looks at google maps before we left and saw the
plan was a straight shot up Michigan Ave to Washington by the time we
got down there. All good. We chatted all the way down about labor and
Occupy; I dutifully fulfilled my promise to his teacher to make this a
day of learning as well as a moral decision to stand in protest. As we
neared the city, I called a friend who is a devout Marxist and equally
dutifully gave him a rash of shit about not closing his business for
the day in support of the General Strike.
"Uh, huuuuh," I intoned sarcastically, "the only thing that stands
between a Marxist and his ethics is his wallet...." He had health
issues going that wouldn't let him attend, but far be it from a
smartass like me not to jazz him about it. "Hey, I just donated a
bunch of money to those kids," he replied, "I have to make money to
donate money, and thats all I can do since I can't march." I laughed
and let it go, surprisingly enough finding the fortitude to not point
out thats what all the 1%ers say too. "Rockefeller Foundation?" stayed
choked back in my throat. Sometimes the filter between my mouth and
brain does work. Who knew?
We arrived at the park, and I rolled around the block looking for my
favorite lot to park in. Then I saw the sign. $15. I only had 14
and change left. The lot owner gave me a pass on being a buck
short... we were right in the shadow of Tiger Stadium and a game was
on at 7. He'd make more than enough.
We stopped and scribbled out signs on the fly. I made the promised
one about Jake's teachers for him, and it flashed on me to make his
flip side for the Police. A dual "Get Out of Jail Free card" and a
gentle reminder that they should be on our side.
We wandered by the men setting up banners in the Park, and started
walking toward the march.
We looked at our watches, trying to guestimate where we would meet
them. We passed Rosa Parks Transit, we passed the Fed. We stopped and
sat in a bus shelter, and made a call to a friend from FB who had
volunteered as a medic and ride person for any who needed help and
found they couldn't make the whole march. The call sounded worse than
AM radio in a thunderstorm. I finally discerned that they "should" be
where we were by now. Or any second. So, we kept going, all the way
Something wasn't right. You don't just "miss" a couple thousand
people. Yet? We DID!
"Lets go back Jake."
"This sucks, Mom. What the heck?"
"They'll be at the Park eventually. In the meantime, we're walking
around together and you keep saying how beautiful the city is, the old
buildings are, and its better than sitting in a classroom, right? Lets
just enjoy it for what it is."
By 4, we were back at the Rosa Parks Center, and no Occupy. As we
turned onto Washington, I suggested that they were probably already
there by now. "Oh, stop!" Jake rolled his eyes. "Don't even say that!"
Then he proceeded to slug bug me on the same one he got me on going
out. Brat always wins that game.
Lo, and behold? We could hear them before we saw them, and somehow
they beat us back. I asked a girl on the way in (who ended up being
Barbara of tent-war fame) how that happened... apparently they changed
the route and meandered back a shorter, more direct route. I can dig
it. Lots of older people, lots of vets, and the original plan was a
Another online activist friend, Michael Matyas was there with the
Wobblies, and had a spread of food for the people, donations accepted
but not mandatory. We met he and his wife Kathleen with warm hugs all
around. The whole scene was like that, warm and fuzzy.
Me being me, I had to go pet the cop horsies. Heh. I chatted them up,
Jake showed them his sign and I told them how I got my Detroit Mounted
Police shirt back in the 80's. Well, most of the story anyway. My
kid was with me ;)
As the music started, Jake and I walked into the circle when a voice
broke out, "We need help over here. We need help now!" We jumped the
small shrubs and saw a dozen or so cops closing in on a small group of
young people setting up a tent. People started to follow us over, and
cars came up, and more mounted cops came to stand position around
them. I grabbed my video camera and closed in. Inspector Johnson and
Barbara Carter were in a standoff. She was brave, resolute, as were
her friends whose names I don't know at this point. One of the
ranking officers was near enough to record, as he stepped away from
the pack, and I followed. I heard him ask repeatedly if who ever he
was talking to was sure, couldn't they give us a pass, and "Aww man,
don't make us do this..."
The cops conferred and pressed in again. I was not close enough to
hear all that ensued in that inner circle. These are the dedicated
few who have been there from the beginning, and they had it handled.
When the voiced behind them began to ring with "Fuck the Pigs," I
quickly started yelling myself, turning towards the tense loooking
cops approaching me from the Washington side.
"Detroit is NOT Oakland!
We don't hurt our own.
Detroit is not Oakland.
Our cops don't beat us."
Some of the officers looked at me gratefully, their demeanor relaxing
a little. A few smiled and nodded. In the split second after making
my plea, another guy grabbed a bullhorn and changed the tone again to
a less confrontational mic check than the "Fuck the Pigs" one someone
else had started. He saved the moment.
We did a few rounds of that, and then he mic-checked how they could
take down tents but never tear down an idea. It was a masterful way
to channel the energy. Eventually the tent went away, and people
melted back into the commons off the lawn. The music began again.
I checked my camera. Somehow I had hit the pause button and missed
the entire thing. I mean, I was on TOP of this shit, and it would
have been a priceless capture, and ARRRGGGHHH! Gone.
Inspector Johnson was now negotiating with some of the unofficial
leaders of OD, and this time, I got it. He spoke of how they were
trying to work with us, pointing out they were NOT supposed to let us
march down the middle of the road, and they gave it a pass. He told
them, that at the end of the day they had to do what they had to do,
and this was a line that had been drawn. Several Occupiers pointed
out (and rightly so) that every night the homeless camp in that park,
sleep in that park and the Police do NOT intervene - which basically
said that they were only enforcing this archaic law against us. It
was an obvious bias and cherry-picking enforcement to harass Occupy.
Cooler heads prevailed and the moment passed. The negotiators will
brilliant on both sides - the video below shows that.
Thats when we circled back to some of the cops standing around the
debate, and Jake showed them his sign. (the other side said his
teachers deserved better) They started laughing and smiling, and I
asked Jake to step up for a picture. Then the bigger one said,
"C'mon" after I said, "Is this a photo op or what?"
They put Jake between them and tried very hard to look professional
and not amused. In case it made the paper, I would guess. It, they,
my kid, had an adorableness factor off the scales.
At that point, he was the only child there, though I heard more came later.
There is a small rift between the "work with the cops" contingent and
the "we don't need permission" contingent. I see both sides.
However, I tend to think while we have the cops mostly on our side and
because at some point when the city "manager" appointed by the evil
bastard Snyder orders them to do something while laying thousands of
them off we want them to feel like WE have their backs when they
refuse? we should not be pushing for confrontation. It may "feel
good" to burn off some anger and maybe make the press as some kind of
heroes. To win around. I think we will be better served by getting
them on our side for when it gets really ugly. I want Detroit to be
an exception. We already are. No cop violence, no arrests. That IS a
Wonderful voices came to the microphone one by one, and I got
highlights of most here below. Again, my ineptitude with my video-cam
missed much. I've had it almost 2 years, and I so rarely use the
thing I still don't know what I am doing. Dammit. I did manage to
create one film out of the montage. I'm a writer and a still
photographer, no videophile. OBVIOUSLY. Still.... good stuff in this
11 minute clip.
We met Jean Bails, my failed-phone call friend. She was kind enough
to donate some money for our gas to get home. We talked to people,
enjoyed our day, were inspired by the dedication and passion of the
people in the stack coming to the mic. Jake went hunting with the
camera for the FBI car that had been there earlier.
Still, I was saddened, that in Detroit where unemployment is
astronomical; where we have thousands of homeless and thousands of
empty homes that could house them, where our Governor is illegally
taking over our city and appointing managers with the sole purpose of
killing the Unions and shutting down any humanitarian services
The crowd was so very small. What will it take to get us out in the
numbers of other cities?
I assume we have to rely more on what the city's residents are looking
for from Occupy, to let more people of color lead the way. We need
the former automakers and iron-workers to come help lead; the teachers
and students who live in Detroit. We need Wayne State to get
involved. We need Corktown and Mexican Village and all of the City
Workers to stand with us. We need what we have only MORE of us.
The group that has been working tirelessly from day one is amazing. I
have nothing but pure unadulterated praise for them. I realize that
other than online, I have only attended a couple OD's, but I do follow
the coverage via FB and livestream. They are awesome, all of them
from where I stand.
I loved the diversity of speakers, the range of ages, the love that
flowed between people from vastly different experiences and goals. It
was beautiful, they were beautiful, we are beautiful.
In the end, they did not let them post tents, but did let them camp
overnight in the Park unmolested. No tents meant they kept their jobs,
but they did not run our Occupiers off at 10 as instructed either.
How cool is that?
As the hour neared for us to leave, and we wandered the backstreets to
our car, we were approached by a gentleman who gave us small paper and
toothpick flags. He then asked for a small donation. I looked him in
the eye and said, "Dude I have zero dollars to my name. Why do you
think I'm protesting?" Then I gave him a cigarette and we talked a
minute. I explained about my husband dying, my inability to find work,
the fact that when SS runs out, we will likely be living on the
streets with him. He spoke of his former home and 2 cars, the closing
of the mill where he worked, the loss of everything; he was homeless
now. We spoke of jobs, and rich assholes and the sickness of it all
for all of us.
He tried to give ME a dollar. What a sweetheart. I told him we were
ok, because a friend just gave us money to get home on and that I was
working the following day for a rich lady who I cooked and cleaned
for, that I would have money the next day. He was all "You're sure? I
only have a dollar now, but you should take it, no one should travel
that far with a kid and not have money in their pocket." He said he
would make more later off the Tiger's fans, that he would be fine and
tried to insist I take his dollar. I declined but gave him a big hug
and a kiss on the cheek, telling him he was awesome.
As we walked away he hugged Jake, "You take care of your Mom here,
she's a fine woman..."
Awww! I love Detroit. I love my People. I so want to bring us back to life.
Nothing against Oakland. I love them. I want their numbers, their
dedication, their spirit. But I'll take Detroit Cops over theirs any
Occupy! Strike! Resist! Inform! RE-form. Revolution! Evolution.
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