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Jesse Jackson, EM opponents promise "a major mass demonstration" in Detroit

Opponents of Michigan’s emergency manager law are gearing up for a long, hard fight against it.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson joined Congressman John Conyers and others in Detroit Friday to outline some of their plans.

Conyers said Michigan’s emergency manager law is undemocratic and unconstitutional, and there’s no evidence it works. He also said the new law that kicks into effect next week is too similar to Public Act 4, which voters overturned in November.

Unions plan to file a federal lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality, and Jackson and other leaders also promised major civil disobedience to protest it.

Opponents said they can’t yet specify what those actions will look like, but promised there will be a “a mass non-violent demonstration” at some point soon in Detroit.

Jackson said such measures are called for because this is a serious voting rights issue. He said emergency managers violate fundamental voting rights by disempowering local elected officials—and transferring that power to a new set of people.

“Instead of having an elected mayor and City Council, you’ll have a plantocracy, or a plantation-ocracy, to replace democracy,” said Jackson, referring to an emergency manager as a “czar.” “ Where a few rich people buy up whole acreages of neighborhoods, and downtown assets, and riverfront property.

“Detroit cannot be reduced to a rummage sale."

Jackson says he and Conyers want to meet directly with US Attorney General Eric Holder about the emergency manager law. They want to US Justice Department to investigate the voting rights issues.

Conyers and fellow Detroit Congressman Gary Peters have also requested the federal Government Accountability Organization look into the issue.

Union leaders promised to back up the efforts.

Al Garrett, head of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 25, said Detroit and other Michigan cities are in financial crisis because of declining state support, and banks’ predatory lending.

“The villain that we really go to deal with is the economics in America,” Garrett said to applause. “That money ought not to trump people nowhere, no place, and no how.”

Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, is slated to take power on Monday.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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