Reporting Vickie Thomas
DETROIT (WWJ) – Homemade signs read: “Snyder, 21st Century Hitler, Burning Books.”
Highland Park residents took to the streets in protest Monday morning after they say thousands of black history books were tossed in the trash.
Outside Highland Park Renaissance High School, which is now a charter school, parents and kids held what they’re calling a “Slowdown in Motown, Highland Park Style.”
WWJ City Beat Reporter Vickie Thomas said the loud crowd brought traffic to a standstill, at one point, for about 15 minutes. On north and southbound Woodward Ave., horns honked as vehicles came to a stop, backed up four-deep in each lane with hazard lights blinking.
“It was just an unbelievable site,” reported Thomas. “I don’t know I’ve ever really even seen anything like it.”
Some commuters were using Midland Street to bypass the protesters until Highland Park police arrived to break things up.
Linda Wheeler said they’re upset about the disposal of 10,000 books, tapes and film strips from the school library.
“As the financial meeting at the close of the school year, we asked him [the school's emergency manager, Donald Witherspoon], why did you dump them? He said it was a mistake … ‘I take full responsibility,’” Wheeler said. “He also said, too, ‘I’m not in the business of the library, nor am I a storage; and we plan to give the books away or donate them to an organization.’”
Wheeler said many of the books were destroyed.
“We’re going to pass out information for all to understand why we’re standing up; why we’re slowing down. Because if it could happen to us, it could happen to anybody,” she said.
Witherspoon, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to manage the Detroit enclave’s struggling school district, said some of the books were recovered from the trash — although it’s unclear how many.
As a result of the protest, Public School Public School Academy Board Vice President Andre Davis announced his resignation.
“I don’t want to be a part of the destruction of our future generation,” said Davis. “If we don’t educate our kids, then how can we get mad when they’re coming through our windows or holding us up at the gas station and what have you. I mean, if that’s all that you have left, the first law of nature is self-preservation.”
Calls by WWJ to school leadership for comment were not immediately returned.
The Highland Park city library was closed several years ago.