by Ryan Felton
The Occupy Detroit group has potentially set a precedent for groups aligned with the flagship in New York City.
After their first weekend in Grand Circus Park, the group organized a demonstration with Moratorium NOW!, a pre-existing coalition that seeks to to stop foreclosures, evictions and utility shutoffs. (See "Up Against the banks," MT News Editor Curt Guyette's cover story about the group.) Occupy Detroit adopted the end of foreclosures in Detroit and throughout Michigan as a demand, and took that demand on Tuesday to Bank of America's downtown offices on Griswold.
An open letter was sent to Brian T. Moyinhan, CEO of Bank of America, which detailed the reasoning for the demand.
"Foreclosures are destroying are communities," the letter dated Oct. 16 said. "No city has been hit harder than Detroit, where vacant home as a result of foreclosures are everywhere."
The letter concluded by saying if the bank didn't implement a moratorium, another demonstration will follow at noon Friday, Oct. 21, with an invitation to "all those affected by the foreclosure epidemic."
"We have a definite demand and want an immediate halt," said Abayomi Azikiwe of Moratorium NOW! "We've been battling the banks now for four years. [Friday's] going to be a larger demonstration."
Azikiwe, who's been down to the Detroit encampment every day said the group is sending out press releases, Facebook posts and networking through Occupy Detroit supporters staying in Grand Circus Park.
The 80-100 protesters from the camp who marched, went down Woodward toward Congress in similar fashion to Friday's Occupy Detroit inception march, chanting: "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" and "Bail out the people, not the banks!"
After turning on to Griswold Avenue, the group stopped in front of the Guardian Building, forming a picket line for a half hour. Passersby gawked and watched as a handful of Detroit Police vehicles guided traffic. During the time in front of the Guardian Building, the Occupy Detroit Twitter page was updated saying "#occupydetroit police are being friendly!"
Around 1 p.m. students, lawyers, and demonstrators spoke to the crowd via megaphone — with phrases repeated by the crowd in the "human microphone" style — giving their reasons for being present. Credit cards were ripped and cut, while volunteers urged others to bring more people back with them Friday.
The Occupy Detroit encampment on Grand Circus Park's west-side has become an impressive display since being set up Friday. With a legal permit in place, the group can use tarps, tents and structural setups allowing for a sliver of extra comfort with cold weather creeping through the door.
About 50 tents surround the information station, a small library in the process of construction and a stocked kitchen which was serving coffee and French toast Tuesday.
"This is the civil rights of the 21st century," said retired priest the Rev. Leo Reilly. "Just as we fought racism, we're fighting richism."