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Good Jobs Now, Occupy Detroit March In Solidarity With National Occupy Protests

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Matt Sledge
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On a day where protesters came together across the globe to rally in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street on its two-month anniversary, Detroit saw not one, but two marches.

Occupy Detroit held a "Day of Action Against Austerity" Thursday, with several events, including a banner drop, teach-in, rally and march.

At 3 p.m., approximately 300 people gathered at Grand Circus Park to share stories of how austerity cuts affect people in the city.

"We have teachers that want to teach, and children that want to learn," one protester, Nina Chacker, told the group, according to an Occupy Detroit press release. "But resources are being cut while standards to judge us are being raised. We are not the ones who are failing; we have been failed!”

Demonstrators then marched to Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to add their numbers to a union rally.

Many union members came from AFSCME Local 207, who were up in arms over a recent U.S. District Court ruling limiting their bargaining ability, the Detroit News reported.

"If we lose collective bargaining, were going to lose more workers, more jobs and more citizens of Detroit," she said. "That would diminish Detroit, which was built by unions," AFSCME Local 1642 President Gina Thompson-Mitchell told the News.

The Occupy Detroit protesters had wider targets.

"The protest was against emergency manager law, against cuts to social services, against cuts to buses and cuts to things that affect the 99 percent," said Joe McGuire, a member of the Direct Action committee." If we need to balance the budget, we should cut wars and military spending, or raise taxes on the rich."

As protesters rallied at the Municipal Center, a separate group of several hundred people blocked traffic on the Second Avenue bridge near I-94. Members of Good Jobs Now and the Service Employees International Union marched from the bridge to Wayne State and back, calling for Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, according to WJBX FOX 2.

SEIU helped organize nationwide protests for the Nov. 17 Day of Action, including an Occupy Wall Street action that had several thousand people marching from lower Manhattan's Foley Square across the Brooklyn Bridge.

The two Detroit marches were not directly related, though their participants agree on many issues. And the SEIU and Good Jobs Now protest was never officially endorsed by Occupy Detroit.

"We would have, if we had thought of it," McGuire said.

While protesters on the bridge were prepared to lay down and be arrested, according to WXYZ, police allowed protesters to congregate on the bridge.

The Occupy Detroit march was also peaceful, according to McGuire.

"The police supported our right to be there. They supported our right to march," he said. "They were a little uncomfortable with people marching in the street, buy they haven't ticketed anyone. They mainly blocked the streets off and protected protesters safety."

David Sands contributed to this report.

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When Occupy the Hood founder, Ife Johari Uhuru, walked down to Thursday's International Day of Actions Against Austerity rally at Grand Circus Park, it wasn't just to show solidarity.

"Yesterday, I was down there to meet with This Hood of Ours, another organization, to see how we could work together. Not just with Occupy Detroit, but to organize in Detroit. It's not just about occupying, It's about saving Detroit, period. Occupy the Hood is outreach."

Although Uhuru helped found Occupy Detroit and served as one of its first facilitators, she says she had to step away from effort to attend to the increasing needs of Occupy the Hood.

"What started to happen is that Occupy the Hood grew so fast, I had my hands in too many pots. Chapters started popping up [around the country]. I organized those chapters. I have pulled from the internal planning. I am still in solidarity, but I had to pull back."

Uhuru added that although Occupy the Hood is spreading rapidly, the organization does need more organizers to help with the growing work.

Occupy the Hood began shortly after the Occupy Wall Street protests at New York's Zucotti Park. It aims to bring more people of color and their issues into the movement. Chapters are active in New York, Atlanta, New Orleans, Philadelphia and several other cities around the country.

At Thursday's anti-austerity march, Uhuru announced Occupy the Hood's new holiday campaign to boycott Black Friday.

"Black Friday is one of the busiest, biggest days for corporations. It's also a very violent day," she said. "When we're standing in line trampling over people to get an iPod, we need to rethink what we're doing."

Typically the shopping event starts the day after Thanksgiving, though Uhuru noted that retailers seemed to have moved up the timeline this year to late Thanksgiving night. She hopes the action will encourage citizens to think about what power they do have and act on it.

"We definitely do have economic power. We can't always just complain only about the 1 percent," she said. "When we protest corporations they need to feel it, not just hear it."

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ClickOnDetroit has a photo gallery of images from Thursday's protest, which blocked the 1-94 bridge at Second Avenue in Detroit.

Go here to see the photos.

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@ jeremy_1988 : Occupy Detroit #shutitdown today. So glad I wasn't in that traffic near Wayne State.

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HuffPost's Janell Ross reports:

Uhuru, 35, is one of two core coordinators behind Occupy the Hood, a group that aims to bring the concerns of people of color to the global Occupy Wall Street movement. On Monday, she needed to add a few palliative posts to a debate raging on Occupy the Hood's Facebook page about which issues the group should rally around. She needed to design and print a new flyer for Occupy the Hood's ongoing food and clothing drive for Detroit's poor. She needed to convince a few more businesses around town to serve as collection points for the goods. And, in about 20 minutes, Uhuru's client's hair would require her full attention. The woman was there to have her dreadlocks washed, deep conditioned and re-twisted.

"I'm a single mom, a small business owner, a daughter, a neighbor. I have a lot of obligations," said Uhuru, who is black and lives in Novi, a community about 30 minutes northwest of downtown Detroit. "But trying to foster something where people who look like me, who have the same concerns as me are seen and heard? Doing that, I've discovered a whole new kind of busy."

Uhuru is one of thousands of people across the country long concerned about the rising tide of poverty and household debt who have found both inspiration and cause for action in the Occupy Wall Street movement. The protests have transformed Uhuru: Before, she was a suburban single mom who occasionally shared her political views with her wide circle of Facebook friends and volunteered for community projects, and now she is at the center of a developing national organization focused on economic issues that deeply effect communities of color.

Read more here.

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@ UAW : #UAW with #occupydetroit blocking traffic. #p2 @OccupyWallStNYC http://t.co/ZmaIMroi

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@ Local4News : #Occupy #Detroit group was blocking the 2nd Ave. bridge at I-94 Thursday afternoon, images: http://t.co/pSodXx7I

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@ crosswordboy : occupy detroit just rolled down griswold. #ows http://t.co/b2ZzSEqW

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The Detroit News reports Occupy Detroit members expressed sympathy with the 50-odd Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested in New York City Thursday:

"To the extent (the movement) has failed, America has failed," said Rafael Adley, initially a member of Occupy Lansing before joining Occupy Detroit this past weekend.

Lee Gaddies, a member of the Detroit group's media team, said protesting on Wall Street put the New York group in danger of police action.

"The reason New York in particular is getting attacked is because they're closest to the locus of power," Gaddies said Thursday afternoon. "(New York Mayor Mike) Bloomberg is part of the top 1 percent."

Members of Occupy Detroit were concerned for their fellow 99 percenters in New York, but police raids in other cities, including Oakland, Calif., and Portland, have no effect on the local protest.

"Detroit is a very different place. You can't superimpose Oakland and New York on Detroit," Gaddies said. "Detroit is built on relationships. We have a relationship with the police department; we have a relationship with City Council.

"Our strength is the fact that we are Detroiters, and we are loyal when it comes to other Detroiters."

Read more here.

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According to Mike Shallal, part of Occupy Detroit's Direct Action committee, the protesters are planning to hold a rally on Monday, Nov. 21, the night that their permit to stay in Grand Circus Park will expire.

"This is a movement that values free speech," Shallal said. "You can't dictate to us where or when to protest."

Protesters will be moving some storage and supplies to a building in southwest Detroit, and some who have been camping and don't have anywhere else to go will stay.

Shallal doesn't consider that an occupation.

"We were completely invited to that building."

Further occupation steps are unclear, but Shallah said an "uninvited" occupation of a public building is being discussed for the future.

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No mention of his hometown, Flint, or of Occupy Detroit, but he did tweet this:

@ MMFlint : You don't have to be in NYC to participate in this #OWS Day of Action! Actions occurring everywhere. Type "occupy" & your city into Facebook

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@ OccupyTheD : #occupydetroit teach in at 3 march at 4 #n17 #ows THE WHOLE WORLD IS MARCHING!

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Later Thursday, Occupy Detroit's Nov.17 Day of Action events will be livestreaming here.

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@ OccupyDetMI : #occupydetroit using 5000 sqft space in southwest Detroit. Help needed 2 clean/organize donations.Work party Fri 11/18 @ 5900 Mi Ave &Wesson

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Other sources in the Occupy Detroit movement disagreed with the statement on the Occupy Detroit website that suggests the protesters will soon be occupying a building in southwest Detroit.

"We don't have any plans to occupy any buildings at this point," said Joe McGuire, who is a part of the Direct Action working group of Occupy Detroit.

Some Occupy Detroit members may occupy a building in the future, but they have no final plans to do so right now. McGuire added that any decision about plans for the group's future would need to be decided by consensus at a General Assembly.

The next General Assembly is at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

--David Sands and Kate Abbey-Lambertz

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Both Council members and Detroit Police were willing to extend the Grand Circus Park campers' permit Tuesday. The Free Press reports:

Some council members likened the peaceful Occupy Detroit to the civil rights movement aimed at extending rights to disenfranchised black people.

"All of us sit here because some people fought, because some people occupied, because some people demonstrated," Councilman Kwame Kenyatta said. "They did it because it was the right thing to do."

Saying the Occupy Detroit protesters have been peaceful and cooperative, Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said he was not opposed to the one-week extension.

Read more here.

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@ roopraj : News Alert: Council has voted to week long extension until Nov 21st for #OccupyDetroit.

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@ RevEggplant : RT @roopraj: News Alert: #OccupyDetroit members want to host "Occupy Thanksgiving at 4pm Nov 20th. Council tells them they need a permit ...

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@ roopraj : News Alert: Even as we wait for council vote on #OccupyDetroit extension, @mayordavebing has approved a one week extension., accd to council

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The Michigan Messenger reports Occupy Detroit members have found several potential relocation sites if either they are forced to leave Grand Circus Park by the city, or they decide to move indoors for winter.

Members of Occupy Detroit have worked with local businesses to secure a multi-story office building, a store front for sign-making, a warehouse, and a renovated 50-unit hotel that will serve as housing for protesters.

Occupy Detroit spokesperson Lee Gaddis said the group plans to pack up the Grand Circus Park encampment and move into donated space where it will be able to focus on political work.

“The weather is really crummy … and going to get crummier,” Gaddis said. “Our primary concern is the safety of the occupiers. Not everybody is prepared to do winter camping.”

Occupy Detroit spokesman Lee Gaddis told HuffPost Monday that a local businessman has agreed to protesters stay in a 5,000 square foot warehouse in southwest Detroit. Gaddis would not reveal the identity of the warehouse owner, saying he was not authorized to impart that information.

Read more in the Michigan Messenger here.

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The status of the city permit allowing protesters to camp at Grand Circus Park remains uncertain, but Occupy Detroit is already planning a party.

Organizers have scheduled a "Music/Dance/Poetry/Comedy Fundraiser" for Friday evening at 1515 Broadway, just a half-block from the campsite. Suggested donation is -.

Occupy Detroit held a similar fundraiser last week at the Old Miami bar in the Cass Corridor.

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