For 40 minutes the Ambassador Bridge’s truck ramp leading on to Fort Street was halted after more than 150 protesters created a human barrier at the exit.
Led by the Bridgewatch Detroit group in coalition with Occupy Detroit, the demonstration began at the corner of 18th and Lafayette around 5 p.m. on Thursday. Handouts were passed around to those in attendance detailing their reasoning.
“The Bridge Company steals property, parks and streets without permission, builds without permits, and hides like a coward under the false umbrella of Homeland Security,” the handout stated.
Just after 5 p.m. two impressive and detailed Matty Moroun floats arrived draped with signs that read “I bought a legislature for $6.6 million.” A small jet flew above the Detroit skyline just as the sun broke through with a sign reading, “1% QUIT PLAYING GAMES. CREATE JOBS NOW.”
Moments before beginning their march a few blocks from the bridge, a Bridgewatch leader announced, “There will be civil disobedience today.”
It was clearly reiterated, as stated on the handout, that the peaceful action “concludes at 6 p.m.” Some demonstrators then linked arms and led the march toward the bridge chanting, “Stop Moroun madness” and “Take back Fort Street.”
Initially met by a light police presence, the group moved out to the exit ramp without confrontation. A resident from the neighborhood stepped out in front of the group with his dog, stopping directly in front of a semi-truck. Reminiscent of the famed Tiananmen Square photo, the tank man of Ambassador Bridge created the most moving moment seen in any event related to the now two-week Occupy Detroit movement.
“I’m very appalled by what Mr. Moroun is doing,” said Mike Kerwin of UAW Local 174 who’s lived in Detroit since 1950. “We need to get away from this monopoly of this billionaire. We need a public bridge.”
After 10 minutes, semi-trucks could be seen backed up on the bridge directly above Fort. Police cars started arriving in droves as the crowd that initially stood on the outskirts for support swelled to the front line creating a larger mass.
“The people are trying to build a bridge that they own,” said Tom Cervenak, executive director of People’s Community Services of Metropolitan Detroit. “If Del Ray goes down the tube it will be because of Matty Moroun, and that’s the fact.”
As 6 p.m. crept up, border patrol guards arrived and police began inching towards the crowd. An officer produced a stock of plastic restraints which are used in situations of protests or mass arrests.
But, demonstrators stuck to the plan, exiting promptly at 6 p.m., eliminating any potential for confrontation. They migrated back toward the dividing line of the bridge and the neighborhood.
Once traffic started moving again, numerous drivers offered abrasive honks of approval with one noticeably mixing in a why-did-you-hold-up-traffic-I’m-on-a-time-schedule-and-have-many-things-to-do type flip-of-the-bird.
Moroun has been criticized for his company’s recent ad campaign opposing a new crossing between Windsor and Detroit being built, urging constituents to ask local legislators to invest in fixing local roads instead. The proposed second bridge would be publicly owned and privately operated, creating competition with the Ambassador Bridge.
“This is the only way we can make a statement,” said Gary Wagaman, Occupy Detroit supporter. “He’s practically bought everyone out.”
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.