Protesters gathered outside the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse in downtown Detroit Friday afternoon, joining the nationwide Occupy Our Courts protest taking place at more than 130 courthouses across the country.
Organized through the grassroots organization Move to Amend, the group planned to assemble outside the Lafayette entrance of the courthouse from 3 to 5 p.m. to protest the 2010 court ruling Citizens United vs. FEC, which prohibited the government from restricting certain spending on political campaigns.
AJ O'Neil, owner of AJ's Music Cafe in Ferndale, contacted Move to Amend to coordinate Detroit's protest after hearing about it from a friend in Boston.
"People in my community feel very disenfranchised already," O'Neil said. "Their ability to feel they have a representative to speak to their concerns is only further thwarted by Citizens United."
O'Neil is running for a Congressional seat in Michigan's ninth district. As a candidate, he believes that the financial influence doesn't belong in political decision making.
Move to Amend is using the nationwide protest, which comes the day before the two-year anniversary of the court ruling, to start petition drives for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United vs. FEC. O'Neil say he plans to reach out to the City of Detroit for support.
"I would like Mayor Bing and City Council to resolve that corporations are not people and they cannot speak as people," he said.
O'Neil has been planning Friday's permitted protest since late 2011 with support from Occupy Detroit. But with snow possible on the horizon, he isn't banking on a large crowd.
"By all means, if two people show up we've at least made our point and what more can we ask for," he said.