Diego Rivera is under attack in Detroit. It’s not the first threat to the late Mexican artist’s famed murals, which depict the city’s steel factories with a not-quite-subtle anti-capitalist bent. In 1933, union workers had to guard the then-new exhibit from the followers of a fanatical local preacher. But today the mural series is facing a different challenge: It is one of many assets that the city could potentially sell off to pay back billions of dollars in long-term debts to Wall Street creditors.
Detroit’s finances and governance have been controlled since March by Kevyn Orr, the emergency manager appointed by Republican Governor Rick Snyder. Under Michigan’s controversial Public Act 436, Orr’s primary duty is to pay back the money that Detroit owes to Wall Street – which would mean scrounging up an impossible $16 to $18 billion. Orr recently announced that the city is temporarily suspending some of its debt payments, setting off a new round of speculation that the city could soon be declaring Chapter 9 bankruptcy. In the meantime, he has ordered that everything in the city be evaluated for the impending fire sale.