March for Democracy and Freedom in Michigan
UPDATE: This march has been cancelled. See my update HERE.
For five days later this month, July 23-27, the Michigan Chapter of the National Action Network will march from Detroit to Lansing along Grand River Avenue, to protest the egregious actions of Republicans in Michigan. From overreaching voter suppression laws to the Public Act 4 — Michigan’s anti-democratic Emergency Manager Law — activists from around the state are outraged by Republican efforts to disenfranchise Michigan voters.
An organizing meeting will take place this Saturday, July 7, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. at the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit (6100 14th Street, Detroit.)
I spoke with Rev. Charles Williams II, president of the Michigan Chapter of NAN this afternoon. He told me that this march is modeled after the Selma to Montgomery march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965.
“With this march, we will step into the same shoes as our ancestors did, marching for democracy and justice,” he said.
Indeed, the name of the march is “March for Democracy and Freedom”. Rev. Williams says the focus is on educating people about the issues facing Michiganders.
“We hope to educate folks from around the state on the issues of voter suppression and Public Act 4 because, for many of them, this really hasn’t hit home,” he told me. “In fact, we hope to educate the rest of the nation, too, because too many people don’t realize what’s happening in Michigan. During the fight for civil rights in the 60s, it wasn’t until people saw images of firehouses and dogs being turned on nonviolent protesters that most Americans knew what was happening. The same thing needs to happen here to educate people.”
Rev. Williams told me that, when Dr. King told President Johnson that passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was good but that blacks also needed the right to vote without interference, Johnson told him it was “too soon.”
“Dr. King didn’t say, ‘Well, that’s fine. I’ll be satisfied with this.’ He kept marching and fighting until the Voting Rights Act was passed. That was only 47 years ago and we need to remember we’re not that far from the days of poll taxes and other ways of taking away people’s right to vote.”
The voter suppression bills recently passed by the Republican-controlled legislature were done so using “immediate effect”, allowing the new rules to be in place for the presidential election in November. Despite the fact that “immediate effect” requires 73 votes and this legislation received only 66 ‘yea’ votes, as is typical, Republicans rammed it through anyway, an illegal act.
Rev. Williams said that people don’t realize how hard it is for poor people to meet the new requirements.
“Needing five pieces of i.d. just to get one i.d. card?” he asked. “Most folks don’t understand how hard it is for poor people come up with that and then get the i.d. they need to vote. It’s an unnecessary hindrance to voting. What we are afraid of is that we’ll go to bed one night thinking we’ve elected one candidate and wake up the next morning to another candidate because thousands of votes have been thrown out. These ‘challenged ballots’ open up the door to the same kind of things that happened to steal elections in 2000 and 2004.
“So, that’s why we’re marching. We need to show the rest of the country and even the world what’s going on in Michigan. And we have to keep up the pressure so that maybe we get the attention of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.”
March organizers hope as many as 1,000 people will participate over the course of the five days. They will stop at churches each night, holding rallies to highlight the importance of defeating the voter suppression bills by getting Gov. Snyder to veto them, the repeal of Public Act 4, action on immigration and allowing the Protect Our Jobs ballot initiative to get on the ballot in November.
Rev. Charles finished, saying, “We hope to convince Governor Snyder to veto the voter suppression bills on his desk and to urge the Board of State Canvassers to convene immediately to put the repeal of Public Act 4, the Protect Our Jobs amendment and the SEIU’s healthcare initiative on the November ballot. This march will open the movement to everyone working on all of these important issues facing us.”
For more information on the March for Democracy and Freedom, contact the National Action Network at (313) 312-5287 or [email protected].