Thursday, December 22, 2011

We'll use civil disobedience if needed to oppose Detroit emergency manager, coalition says

By Steve Neavling/Detroit Free Press


The Rev. Jesse Jackson joined a coalition of pastors, civil-rights leaders and elected officials today in Detroit to pledge strong opposition — including civil disobedience, if necessary — against the state’s new emergency manager law.
Jackson and others likened emergency managers to dictators who wipe out the democratic process with unilateral authority to gut union contracts, sell cherished assets and slash essential services.
“We are prepared to go from education, mobilization, litigation, legislation, demonstration and civil disobedience,” Jackson said during a press conference at Bethany Baptist Church on the city’s west side. “We want a positive commitment to restoring democracy and economic justice for all citizens.”
Jackson’s comments come one day after the city moved closer to the appointment of an emergency manager following the release of a state financial report that painted a bleaker-than-expected picture of a city digging deeper into debt just to pay for its everyday bills.
The coalition acknowledged the city was in a crisis but didn’t offer financial solutions.
The point, they said, was to underscore the recklessness of an emergency manager bill that allows the state to remove elected officials.
Asked whether civil disobedience is a possibility, leaders didn’t hesitate.
“We are prepared to utilize all of the measures afforded to us citizens to protect democracy,” said David Bullock, president of the Michigan Chapter of the Rainbow Coalition, a civil-rights group led by Jackson. “We aren’t going to take it any longer. We marched, fought and died for our right to vote. Enough is enough. We will not allow democracy to be dismantled.”
One by one, speakers vowed to do whatever it takes to end state takeover of the city’s finances.
“This is bigger than Detroit,” said Herb Sanders, a leader in the petition campaign to repeal the emergency manager law. “This is bigger than Michigan. This is about democracy. We are sending a message that we will have demonstrations in Michigan and nobody will be allowed to trample our rights.”
As the possibility of an emergency manager in Detroit appears to increase, leaders of a demonstration outside Gov. Rick Snyder’s house in Superior Township on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16 said the cause is gaining momentum and more people.
“The country and the world will be watching as the governor continues to send dictators throughout the state,” said the Rev. Charles Williams II, of the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit. “We won’t stand by and let that happen.”
Mayor Dave Bing and a majority of the City Council also are opposed to an emergency manager and are working throughout the holiday and on weekends in hopes of gaining major concessions from labor unions to save more than $100 million a year.
Reducing the long-term costs of pension and health care benefits is the top priority of the governor and city.
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