By David Green
Over 10, 000 Detroiters marched down Washington Boulevard from the UAW-Ford National Programs Center to Grand Circus Park on Saturday, August 28th to demand jobs, peace, and justice. The march was organized by United Auto Workers (UAW) President Bob King and Operation PUSH founder and director Reverend Jesse Jackson. It commemorated the 47th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington.
The dais at Grand Circus Park was teeming with dignitaries—politicians, clergy of every denomination, and union leaders. Among the elected officials present were Representatives John Conyers, Jr., John Dingell, Maxine Waters, and Marcy Kaptur and Senator Debbie Stabenow. Michigan Democratic Party gubernatorial nominee Virg Bernero briefly addressed the audience and committed himself to placing the interests of Main Street over those of Wall Street. Among the union leaders who spoke were UAW President Bob King, newly-elected President of the Service Employees International Union Mary Kay Henry, Farm Laborers Organizing Committee President Baldemar Velasquez, and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 25 President Al Garrett.
Speaker after speaker pounded away at the themes of creating jobs (through a second economic stimulus bill), withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, fair trade, and a moratorium on foreclosures. In his remarks, Bob King noted that a government’s budget reflects its values. He charged that the Senate was acting “immorally” in delaying extension of unemployment benefits for workers while simultaneously proposing to make permanent the Bush tax cuts benefitting the wealthiest segment of our population. He added that simply eliminating these tax cuts for the wealthy and ending our $150 billion annual expenditure on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would pay for a second economic stimulus.
Reverend Jackson emphasized the need for citizens to carry over the rage expressed at this march into the November 2nd election. He issued a challenge to Detroit voters: If Detroit turns out 400,000 voters on election day, then progressive candidates will sweep statewide races, progressive members of the Michigan Congressional delegation will be re-elected, and we can pursue a job-creating agenda. “But,” cautioned UAW President King, “we must keep marching.” We must maintain pressure in the streets even as we strive for electoral victories. This is how real change is accomplished.
For this reason, both President King and Reverend Jackson urged Saturday’s participants to join the March for Jobs in Washington, D.C. on October 2nd.