Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Squat Heard Round the World, or, We Have Nothing To Lose But Our Drains

Occupied2The global planners behind Occupy Wall Street deemed it wise to send a contingent to Detroit. (“In wake of Occupy Wall Street, plans develop for Occupy Detroit”).  No one really knows why.  Until now the movement to unoccupy Detroit has been so frantic that the only remaining idea of the city’s one-party government has been “right-sizing” Detroit down to a heavily subsidized farm collective. (“In Havana, an impressive network of urban farms, first created amidst the severe food shortages of the ‘Special Period,’ are now providing most of Havana’s fruits and vegetables.”)  Detroit’s farm project, known as “Focus Hoedown,” has stalled pending a public school administrators’ study of best practices on how to embezzle fresh eggs and feed corn.

Undaunted, Occupy Detroit has established its headquarters at Grand Circus Park, welcoming  “‘Everyone who has suffered financial injustice.’” 

The Detroit Free Press described this scene last weekend:

In the early morning darkness, with a brisk breeze making the temperatures in the 40’s feel even colder, some of Detroit’s newest residents emerged from tents, folding their blankets after a night of slumber in Grand Circus Park just before dawn this morning. (“Occupy Detroit protesters say they'll be in park until mid-December”).

Now that’s a rare sight around downtown Detroit: people waking up in parks after spending the night.

“’This is meant to be a peaceful nonviolent act of civil disobedience,’” said Alexandra Borngesser, a member of the Occupy Detroit and Lansing Volunteer Group.”

In another show of civil disobedience last Saturday, New York’s Occupy Wall street demonstrators tried to take over Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park: “‘We don’t want to ask for public space, we want to take it,’ said Mike Andrews, a 30-year-old protester, during the planning meeting on Sunday night. (“Protesters’ Next Frontier: Washington Square Park”).

By contrast the Detroit Occupiers obtained a 60-day permit to camp in Grand Circus Park. A spokesman for the clerk’s office confirmed that the occupiers even forked over an additional $8.00 to get a “civil disobedience” endorsement.

Spokesmen for the city announced that the anti-corporate protesters have made a 2-month “commitment” to the city. The mayor’s office, following Detroit’s traditional method for attracting outside interest, granted campers $55 million in tax credits for a promise not to ditch town before December 15.

Recent Wayne State University graduate, Jacquie Piche of Dearborn Heights, has taken up temporary residence at the Grand Circus campground. She told the Free Press, “It’s really incredible we built a pretty awesome community in this park. There are a lot of people with a lot of different issues out here and I think every one of them is very important. I think the government needs to care about the people that it’s governing.”

Now there’s something you don’t see every day in Detroit: people in parks with a lot of different issues.

World leaders like Hugo Chavez and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have declared support for the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon. On Thursday even Moamar Ghadafi, in one of his last public announcements, was heard to shriek anti-Wall Street sentiments from the drain pipe where he was cornered. Noted Hollywood celebrities like Alec Baldwin and Danny Glover have shown up at New York’s Zucotti Park to show solidarity with the movement.

Occupy Detroit hasn’t been so honored.  Detroit’s world-class political leaders, such as Congressman John Conyers and Senator Carl Levin  haven’t shown up yet, nor has the Grand Circus Park campsite  received any celebrity visits. A publicist for Slim Shady (aka Eminem) did say the artist might stop by “for a minute” a week from Wednesday, when his mom’s got a dentist appointment at the Whitney Building. On Friday, occupiers demonstrating at the Guardian Building branch of Bank of America cheered wildly when WDIV-TV weather personality Chuck Gaidica showed up. (“Occupy Detroit protest Bank of America over foreclosures”). Cheers turned to boos when they realized Gaidica was only trying to get inside to use the ATM.

So far, Detroit’s occupiers have remained peaceful, unlike other occupied cities that have witnessed ugly scenes. In San Francisco, one protester reportedly was “dragged away by his index finger while police officers threatened to break it.” Police explain the incident was ignited after the  protester  invited an officer to “pull my finger.”

In a report from another occupied city, the corporate headquarters of Susie’s Lemonade had its windows smashed out by a coalition of activists demanding Susie’s slash the price of its popular beverage to one cent. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka called for raising the susiehourly wage of lemon pickers to $75. Corporate CEO, Susie  allegedly replied to occupier demands by sticking out her tongue.


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