By Vickie Thomas
As police in riot gear and swat teams break up anti-Wall Street protests across the country, here in Motown all is quiet at “Occupy Detroit.” As I pulled up to Grand Circus Park, the different colors of the tents stood out in the darkness at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Few people were stirring about but I did find some protesters gathered around a fire. I asked them what they thought of the hundreds of arrests made at protests in Atlanta and in Oakland. “I don’t think its right. It’s unfair. People got a right to assembly and address their grievances and that’s what this is all about,” said Antonio Cassone.
Cassone joined the movement to protest high unemployment and foreclosures. He also cited another reason, “The Free Choice Act for the unions…to make it easier to join unions.”
Petty crimes, complaints of noise late at night and the smell of human waste led police to break up some of the protests in other cities. But here in Detroit, Dan Lijana, a spokesman for Mayor Dave Bing tells me no arrests have been made. He said, “The city has been working very hard to make sure that they have a peaceful place, a safe place to voice their concerns. So, we are very pleased that there have been no major incidents.”
On the sanitary front however, there have been some issues. “It does look like there’s some human feces over there but there has been only a couple of spots…that’s about it,” said Jared Swantak who lives across the street in the Kales Building.
Protester Carlos Flores says the bar across the street had been letting them use their facilities but apparently the owner changed his mind. Now, Flores says organizers are hoping to secure porta potties for the park. “To keep it clean, you gotta have them. They do it for special occasions at Hart Plaza,” Flores added.
Swantak, out walking his hound dog named Elvis, says another issue is protesters are occupying the space that residents of his apartment building use to walk
their four-legged friends. “It’s really not that bad. It’s just more so the land is gone … Many people in the Kales Building own dogs and it’s definitely cutting down on our walking space,” he said.
It’s also interesting to note that at one entrance to the tent city is a statue of Hazen Pingree, who was elected twice as governor of Michigan and four times as mayor of Detroit. Check out the inscription on the plaque … seems a fitting place for the “Occupy Detroit” protest…