Democracy is dead. That was the message leadership from Rainbow PUSH Michigan, and other civil rights groups wanted to spread Monday morning by staging a mock funeral for democracy at Galilee Baptist Church in Detroit. The rally attracted nearly 50 people and was a stark protest to Public Act 4 and the Michigan Board of Canvassers’ failure to certify a petition for a ballot measure to let residents vote on whether the City of Detroit should allow a state mandated finance team to take over the city’s money during it’s financial crisis.
The purpose of the event was to call attention to threats to democracy in financially vulnerable cities such as Detroit and to organize leadership to fight for voting rights.
“We hope to get the word out,” said Alexander Bullock, State Coordinator of Rainbow Push Michigan and President of the NAACP Detroit Chapter. “This is as much about saving the vote as it is about stopping violence,” he said, noting a correlation between political apathy and lawless behavior including violence.
Instead of appointing a nine-member board to take over Detroit’s finances or a state appointed emergency financial manager, Bullock believes the city should lobby for a federal intervention.
He noted a recent report that Jack Martin, the Chief Financial Officer of Detroit’s mandated financial advisory team, called for advice and administrative help from the Obama administration.
“If a ‘competent’ guy is saying we need help from the Obama administration, then what do we need a financial board for?” Bullock asked. He said Detroit needs to call for a federal plan that targets public safety and supports small businesses.
Other human rights groups agreed. “Selling our democratic rights at a cheap price just because we’re in a crisis is absurd,” said Dawud Walid, President of the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “Public Act 4 is turning back the clock and disenfranchising American citizens,” He said, adding that state takeovers of Michigan cities have had a “disproportionate affect on people of color.”
The event was themed to bring attention to other voting rights issues such as voter suppression and voter suspension and challenging ballots as the 2012 presidential election draws closer.
Rev. Robert Smith, pastor at New Bethel Baptist Church, gave the eulogy at the mock funeral and said people need to become more educated on their rights. “I hope this wakes people up,” he said.