USSF: Bank protest wins meeting on foreclosures
Several hundred protesters marched on Chase Tower in downtown Detroit Friday, assembling on the steps just before the building’s front entrance. Only three were allowed inside: UAW President Bob King, Farm Labor Organizing Committee President Baldemar Velasquez and the Rev. Ed Rowe of Central United Methodist Church in Detroit.
Almost an hour later, they returned to cheers, with Velasquez announcing that they had won the “first step to victory” in their call to Chase Bank – the commercial banking division of JPMorgan Chase – for a temporary moratorium on home foreclosures in Michigan.
The protest leaders said that bank officials agreed to meet within two weeks to discuss the company’s foreclosure policy.
The protesters also wanted JPMorgan Chase to sever ties to tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds.
On that issue, Velasquez said FLOC will organize a Chase boycott if there isn’t progress by Labor Day in FLOC’s campaign for improved conditions for Reynolds’ tobacco workers in North Carolina.
Chase officials declined to comment.
The protesters, organized by the USSF Faith and Spirituality Committee, circled around the Chase Tower. “Bail out the people, not the banks,” they chanted to beating drums.
King, Velasquez and Rowe gave fiery speeches before being allowed through a human wall of 20 Detroit Police officers.
The march’s message is simple but important, said David Bullock, president of Rainbow PUSH Detroit.
“We’re here today because a threat to justice anywhere must be fought, it must be stopped,” Bullock said. “We live in a time when greed is taking over America. We are so beholden to money. We are bowing down to the almighty dollar. Somebody tell me: What happened to caring about children? What happened to caring about families? What happened to the American dream of home ownership? … All we want is a fair chance to make it.”
“We’re not asking for anything Wall Street hasn’t gotten,” he said.
But Bullock, also president of the Highland Park NAACP, said the fight isn’t over.
“We will continue to fight [for Detroit],” Bullock said. “We will not stop, we will not bow, we will not break and we will not bend until we save our communities.”
Small victories for progressive movements will only continue if different organizations continue to work together, said King, who was elected UAW president on June 15.
“The only way we can win justice for everyone in society is with a mass movement…that’s going to take labor, religious, all progressive groups coming together,” King said. “The power of the people in control is wealth and greed. Our power is caring about our sisters and brothers and fighting for justice for all.”
King played a prominent part in the protest. In multiple speeches throughout the day, he promised the UAW to take a crucial role in leading progressive movements throughout the country. Matt Slade, a General Motors employee and member of UAW Local 387, said the UAW’s shift to social activism is “long overdue.”
“With our leadership in the UAW, this is going to be a permanent transition,” Slade said. “The friends that we make here — it will be lasting.”
The crowd chanted “Hasta la victoria!” after the announcement was made that Chase would speak with Detroit and FLOC officials. Several local pastors called Friday a “victory” and more than one victory cigar was lit.
But Ishmail A. Terry, chief of staff for State Rep. Fred Durhal, cautioned people from getting overexcited.
“The only way that you’re going to get the city of Detroit and Wayne County to get anything done from Lansing is if you keep coming in droves of people like this,” Terry said. “The disheartening thing is that this is only going to be one day. This should be an everyday thing. This should be 365 days of working hard to get a quality life for everyone.”
If Detroit can continue to show the same sort of determination that it did Friday, Lansing will take notice of the city’s economic, educational and social woes, Terry said.
“Democracy is at its best when people are fighting without creating a feud,” he said. “If you have all of these numbers of people come up to Lansing, you’ll move a mountain.”