DETROIT – The Occupy Detroit movement returned to Grand Circus Park on Tuesday, May 1 just over five months since their permit to camp out expired in late November 2011.
|About 400 people participated in marches across the city that eventually reached the McNamara Federal Building and then proceeded to Grand Circus Park near Comerica Park. |
Photos courtesy of Aaron Petcoff
Chants of “Tents up! Cops out!” and “Set up the tents!” rang out from the demonstrators as police forced participants to dismantle a nearly-completed tent near the busy street, putting a stop to 'May Day' plans to permanently re-launch the settlement.
The march and rally at the park were part of a nationwide movement on May Day, aka 'International Workers Day,' that included the return of Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City, who marched Bank of America, and other cities including Chicago and Los Angeles.
Concerns highlighted by protesters were many, with perhaps the most telling sign being one that read “War on Iran = $6 a gallon,” encompassing issues relating both to the economy and the growing anti-war movement in the U.S. Organizations involved include Southeast Michigan Jobs with Justice, the Moratorium Now! To Stop Foreclosures & Evictions, Peace Action of Michigan, local unions and more. Issues relating to immigration reform, support for education and against closing schools, and against emergency managers in Detroit were also discussed by the crowd, which came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds including African Americans, Latinos, and some Arab Americans.
“Will this camp bring about the revolution? Maybe not but we're all here discussing issues of shared power, of welfare rights; sharing these important ideas, and we're going to move forward by keeping these issues on peoples' minds,” said Occupy member Sarah Coffee over a microphone in the park.
Yusuf Barakat, a Palestinian activist who has visited the Gaza Strip in the past as part of an international aid convoy, made it out to the park rally and gave his assessment of the movement.
“It allows an expression of how the world can be shared of how life should be and how we should treat each other,” he said. “They're speaking out against a system that is structured so that money is more valuable than people, and that is a system that is not sustainable.”
|Immigration reform and education were among the issues addressed.|
He also spoke about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that is growing on campuses across the country against companies providing military support to Israel, noting that many of the same big Wall Street corporations targeted by the Occupy movement also support the Israeli occupation.
Later in the evening, Occupy members continued their pursuit of setting up camp in the public Grand Circus Park, which city officials have said is only open until 10 p.m. each night due to a municipal code. Officials have continued to require a permit which Occupy members say infringes on their rights to assemble.
Despite not being able to set up tents during daylight hours, Occupy member Stephen Boyle and a couple dozen other demonstrators remained before they were forced out by police with Department of Homeland Security support according to one member. About a dozen cop cars remained until 10 p.m. along with DHS officers, who began to pull out a device from a large box that Occupy members suspected may have been a sound cannon to disperse them. They were threatened with fines and decided to leave.
“It makes you wonder why the DHS is out here worrying about the Occupy movement, do they see us as a threat?” Boyle said.
The group left and eventually ended up at Campus Martius Park across town, but police eventually found them and asked them to leave the private property.
Finally, they ended up back at Grand Circus Park where they were able to camp out until roughly 3 a.m., Boyle said.
“Our intent was to have tents on the lawn at Grand Circus Park, so we consider it a success,” he added.