American Apartheid Starts in Detroit

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A recent op-ed from Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, describes the situation in Detroit as the nexus of a new American apartheid in which inhabitants of largely Black urban centers are denied meaningful votes and ability to defend collective and individual property from the wealthy elite. In reaction to this alarming trend, on October 5 and 6, the International People’s Assembly will hold a conference, Against Banks and Against Austerity, in Detroit. Ford describes the goals of the conference in greater detail in this excerpt:

The International Peoples Assembly conference demands that the so-called debt to the banks be canceled – not just for Detroit, which supposedly owes Wall Street $22 billion, but for cities, school systems, states and countries around the world that have been purposely made into debt slaves for the rich. Workers pensions and jobs, and the vital services they provide to the community, must be guaranteed. This is a critical demand, since the emergency management regime in Pontiac, Michigan, has stripped the municipal workforce down to only 20 people for a city of 60,000. The unemployed must be put back to work repairing the damage inflicted on Detroit by the bankers’ foreclosure and disinvestment policies. Public education, which is rapidly being privatized, must be restored to the public sphere and fully funded.

Read the full article here: http://www.blackagendareport.com/content/detroit-nexus-new-american-apartheid

For those not familiar with the “emergency management regime” Ford referenced, it has been a topic of intense debate in Michigan for at least the past couple of years. The so-called emergency management legislation first introduced in 2011, was supposedly designed to help local government survive financial crises but also removed all powers from democratically elected officials and transferred governing power, including the power to make local laws, to appointed emergency managers (who are not required to obey local laws such as city charters or ordinances). Though the law was voted down by Michigan voters, a revised version was passed in December of 2012 during a lame duck session.

More details about Michigan’s “emergency manager” law here:

http://sugarlaw.org/projects/democracy-emergency/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-alexander-bullock/detroit-elections_b_1442049.html

This past September 11th, citizens of Detroit experienced a harmful consequence of the emergency management powers when the city lost power during a heat wave that week. As described by Randa Morris at Addicting Info.:

In the city of Detroit, power outages left people stranded in elevators, trapped four hours in the blistering heat. Hundreds were evacuated from buildings in the downtown area, traffic lights did not function, public transportation was disabled and 1,400 sites across the city were without power. Wayne State University and other key buildings still remained closed, the following day. All of this after the city’s power supply supposedly failed.

…The problem is that the city’s power supply never failed.

On September 12th, 2013, Bill Nowling casually stated that the city’s power outages were intentional. Officials and citizens working in the city were given no warning before the electricity was cut off. Law enforcement officials working in the Hall of Justice had no time to prepare. Senior citizens and disabled citizens using elevators in the city’s downtown district had no way to know what was coming. The entire criminal justice system was shut down without notice. Wayne State University Campus was just one of many sites evacuated under emergency conditions. Traffic lights across the city stopped working. 1,400 public and private locations were left without power. And the entire thing was intentional, to “send a message” to the people of Detroit. Bill Nowling works in the office of Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s Emergency Manager.

Read the full story here: http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/09/14/detroit-blackout/

So this unannounced power shutdown which endangered the health and safety of an entire city can be attributed to a single individual only accountable to Governor Rick Snyder, who appointed him as Emergency Manager in March. And what are Kevyn Orr’s credentials? He was the lead attorney who collected over a million dollars representing Chrysler during its bankruptcy proceedings in 2009. Private emails uncovered by labor activist Robert Davis indicate that Orr stood to make millions more in legal fees by facilitating Detroit’s bankruptcy which was filed on July 18, 2013. Orr has also been behind efforts to privatize Detroit’s energy grid according to this WSWS.org article by Khara Sikhan:

The Detroit Public Lighting Department (DPLD), has been systematically defunded for decades, and Democratic Mayor Dave Bing proposed to fully privatize the lighting department in 2012.

In mid-August, Kevyn Orr fired DPLD director Richard Tenney as part of his plan to restructure the city government. Orr announced in June that the city would sell off the public lighting grid to DTE Energy, in line with Bing’s proposal.

The drive to privatize the city’s lighting department, far from benefiting the city’s residents, would be only another means of extracting profit from the city.

Read the full article here: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/09/14/powe-s14.html?view=print

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This entry was posted in Activism, Corporate Crime, Economics, Financial Crisis, History, Labor, Privatization, Racism, Recession, society, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to American Apartheid Starts in Detroit

  1. That’s true. What’s happening in Detroit is another example of disaster capitalism, complete with incompetent (if not obstructionist) emergency management.

  2. Jeff Nguyen says:

    Detroit follows in the literal wake of New Orleans where the public school system was dismantled and residents locked out of public housing following Katrina. Philadelphia has seen a similar seige of the public schools. Chicago has been fortunate to have an incredibly strong union leadership in Karen Lewis and the CTU. Thanks for sharing this important information.

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