"This is a battle we can win," shouted Malik Shabazz to a crowded Shrine of the Black Madonna Church chamber full of disgruntled Detroit residents. "This is a new day. No power can keep us from claiming what is ours," continued the fiery, charismatic leader of the New Marcus Garvey Movement. His is one of several grassroots groups forming a coalition to recall Mayor Dennis Archer on what they call grounds of "treason to the community."
Archer won a landslide victory in November 1997.
"Any energies and resources being put toward recalling the mayor could be better spent improving the city of Detroit, " said Archer press secretary Anthony Neely of the recall efforts.
Recall petitions circulating cite Archer's public campaign to defeat Proposal A in the August primary election. That proposal, which called for African-American ownership of one casino in Detroit, was defeated with 44 percent of Detroiters voting for it. The primary was also severely criticized by the Community Coalition, which sponsored Proposal A, for implementing a new error-plagued voting system which they say contributed to the defeat.
Wording for the recall petition was repeatedly rejected by the city's election commission. After being turned down for the fourth time, the group took its case to the Wayne County Circuit Court, which approved the petition language.
Black Slate attorney Nefta Omowale, who also spoke at the recall Archer rally, said there are many reasons he should be removed from office. "If we listed everything the mayor has done to blacks and poor people in this city, we'd be here all night," he said. But this did not stop him from pointing to several of the mayor's projects: the Graimark development plans which will use eminent domain laws to remove residents along the Detroit River for private developers, lack of minority contractors on most of the big development projects in the city including the two new stadiums, and less than 10 percent black involvement in the casinos slated for development.
"If this was white folks doing this, everyone would be outraged," said Omowale, who was openly critical of the NAACP, Urban League officials and other black leaders who have been silent on the issue.
"If our ancestors could face the dogs in Alabama, we can get rid of a house Negro in Detroit," said Omowale, who received a standing ovation and thunderous applause. "We are going to use the ballot and get done what God wants us to do."
The Black State which is spearheading the recall campaign, has a 180-day period to collect approximately 60,000 signatures from registered city voters to force a special recall election.