DETROIT (WWJ) – As many as one hundred noisy protesters marched outside federal court in Detroit while a judge inside ruled that the city is eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.
Police closed Lafayette Street to traffic as one person chanted: “From the streets of Detroit, what do we want?” The crowd replied, “Justice!”
Others chanted, “We say no to bankruptcy!”
Rev. Charles Williams, II, Michigan director of the National Action Network, said he hoped Judge Steven Rhodes would reject the city’s Chapter 9 filing.
“This is about busting unions, privatizing workers, and killing pensions,” Williams told WWJ City Beat Reporter Vickie Thomas.
Marion Kramer, with the group Michigan Welfare Rights, agreed.
“They’re attacking the pensions of the public employees,” she said. “Everybody else better start standing up, ’cause you’re next on the chopping block, because it sets a model for the rest of the country and what have you.”
“It’s sad that we have to be out here trying to protect our pensions. But, at the same time, this is war — outright war,” Kramer said. “And they have drawn the line in the sand and we have to all band together.”
Kramer, who is co-president of a national welfare rights union, says there has been a continuing attack on the poor and working class evident in legislation coming out of the Republican-led state capital.
“Somebody needs to have some backbone in Lansing,” Kramer said. “Don’t tell me, ‘I can’t do this because I’m a legislator.’ Yes you can; we voted and put your butts, your dipping butts, in there, and it’s your duty to represent our interests and not the interests of corporations — and that is what’s happening.”
“I know I’m gonna be buried with my boots on, because I’m gonna kick some of their butts on the way out,” she said.
Unions and pension funds claimed Detroit wasn’t eligible for Chapter 9 because it failed to hold “good-faith” negotiations earlier this year — a key point in bankruptcy law. The city denied it, saying it met its burden.
When state-appointed Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr filed for bankruptcy on behalf of the city in July, he estimated the city’s long-term debt at over $18 million.