DETROIT – They came from their houses of worship, unions and neighborhoods. Fifty years after Dr. King first gave his “I Have a Dream Speech” to 100,000 in this city, a diverse sea of people again flooded a two-mile stretch of Woodward Ave, Detroit’s main thoroughfare.
“More folks than we or anybody can count,” said Dr Rev Wendell Anthony, President of the Detroit NAACP, as he addressed the rally after the march.
Like fifty years ago, there was good reason for the huge turnout. With the city now governed by an unelected and unaccountable Emergency Manager, the message was loud and clear that democracy cannot be stolen. “It is not ok. You can’t take away our constitutional rights,” declared Detroit Councilwoman JoAnn Watson.
Anthony said that even in the midst of political repression, voter suppression, defunding of public education and attacks on labor, women’s rights and immigrant rights, “the Dream lives on.”
“We are going to fight, do whatever we can to make a better world for our children,” he declared.
Rev Al Sharpton said those marching were not on a nostalgia trip. He argued that Michigan’s Governor Snyder has imposed his will and nullified the rights of voters just as a Southern Governors had done fifty years ago.
In response to the Republican and tea party led attack, United Auto Workers (UAW) President Bob King urged the building of a new movement. Buses of UAW members came from all over Michigan and beyond to take part.
A large contingent of Good Jobs Now supporters chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, $7.40 has got to go.” They said “it’s a slave wage, we can’t live on it,” and their efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 would have the full support of Dr. King were he alive today.
Coalition of Labor Union Women President Millie Hall said she was walking in memory of her father, a 45-year autoworker, who marched in 1963, and for her brother-in-law, also a 1963 marcher who could not be here.
“Jobs, justice, equality, and getting rid of the Emergency Manager is what I’m marching for,” said Hall.
Quill Pettway completed the entire walk like he had done fifty years ago. Although aged 93, he did not allow the heat to stop him. The sea of people filled him with the confidence that a broad movement for equality can be built. He did have a message for Governor Snyder, “We will clean house in 2014.”
Photo: Commemorative tee shirt adorns The Spirit of Detroit bronze statue at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center on Woodward Avenue. Jackie Dick