Coalition to focus on American traditions of diversity and religious freedom
Faith leaders and congregants from local Christian and Muslim communities took to the streets Sunday in a display of unity to uplift basic human dignity and counter recent attacks on refugees, Muslims and immigrants. “Neighbors Building Bridges” launched its campaign for interfaith and intercultural understanding with a march that began in Southwest Detroit at St. Gabriel’s Church, included the American Muslim Society in East Dearborn and ended at UAW Local 600.
“The Muslims of East Dearborn and the Christians of Southwest Detroit are neighbors who face many of the same challenges since the presidential election,” said Mario Hernandez, an immigrant parent fighting to stop his deportation. “But, working together with like-minded allies, we can strengthen our communities and work to overcome the racism and xenophobia that are ever present. We are people of faith who want to keep immigrant families like mine together and we see our adherence to faith as a way to combat bigotry and prejudice.”
The group, made of many people from different faiths and backgrounds, sees itself as being rooted in the great American traditions of diversity and religious freedom.
“When we look at the diversity of the people who make up our communities, we should be reminded that this nation was founded by immigrants many of whom were seeking the right to worship without persecution,” said Khalid Turaani, President of the American Muslim Leadership Council. “We are following the examples set in our respective faith traditions of welcoming the stranger and providing a place of refuge for those in need. It just so happens those are core American values as well. We want to be clear that refugees, immigrants and people of all faiths are welcome here.”
Speaker Ryan Revealed Plan Last Week to Gut Life-Saving Program
The President of the Michigan Nurses Association joined with seniors and local faith leaders on Tuesday to raise the alarm about a new proposal to scrap Medicare.
President-Elect Trump campaigned on repealing Obamacare, but leaving Medicare and Social Security alone. But last week, Speaker Ryan unveiled a plan to privatize Medicare, ending the guaranteed health care program for seniors. President-Elect Trump has changed his position, voicing support for “modernization.” This is widely understood as a euphemism for privatization.
“For over 50 years the Medicare program has provided health care that would otherwise be out of reach for many seniors. It has prevented countless families from facing bankruptcy, and it allows millions of working people to retire with dignity,” said Armelagos. “But the most important costs that we should consider are human. I can tell you that bedside nurses are terrified and outraged because they understand that privatization means a lower quality of care, and in many cases no access to care at all. “
Elmarie Dixon, a Detroit senior, called on all state leaders to step up and defend Medicare. “Medicare is a promise to me and to everyone else. Our lives and our health matter more than insurance company profits.” Dixon believes in the program so wholeheartedly that she thinks it should be expanded, not privatized. “We should let people buy into Medicare. We should create medicare for long-term care for our elders. We owe it to each to do better.”
Dixon and Armelagos were joined at Metro Zion AME Church by over 50 seniors and clergy.
Too racist to be Federal judge, certainly too racist to be Attorney General
Detroit city council members stood with Michigan civil rights organizations to oppose President elect, Donald Trump’s appointment of Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General. Janee Ayers, one of the city’s two at large representatives, and Brenda Jones, the council President joined the chorus of voices calling for a more moderate choice. “We’re talking about is a dangerous person.” Said Ayers. “The Civil rights act, sanctuary cities, criminal justice reform. These are all things that any one of us could have to deal with at any given time… We are all human beings who have had somebody come before us who fought so we could have inalienable rights. Now those rights are under attack.”
Sessions, the Junior US Senator from Alabama, has been a staunch opponent of immigrant rights. His bid for a Federal Judgeship ended amid controversy over reported racist statements. He’s also referred to groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union as “un-American”. Add to this President elect, Donald Trump has called for unconstitutional policing tactics such as “stop and frisk”, the use of “waterboarding and much worse” and that American citizens could be sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and held without charge.
“Donald Trump staged a very divisive campaign to be elected President” said Bishop Herman Starks of Michigan United’s Detroit Pastoral Alliance for Change. “If he hopes to heal the nation, he’s going about it all wrong.”
Starks focused on the effect Sessions would have on voting rights going forward. As Alabama Attorney General, Sessions pursued bogus voter fraud cases against African Americans. “In the post- Voting Rights era, this is not the person to put in charge of protecting minority rights.” said Starks “The next AG must have a respect for civil rights and equal protection under the law.”
Michigan United joins a strong roster of service and faith organizations at the Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, to begin the work of advocacy under the new paradigm that Tuesday’s election has brought to the community.
A wide range of civil rights, community and religious leaders in metro Detroit announced today they will work to defend the rights of immigrants and minorities under the presidency of Donald Trump through a series of programs and efforts that include legal action, sanctuary houses of worship and possibly civil disobedience.
Speaking in one of Detroit’s oldest Protestant congregations, Central United Methodist Church, the groups also gathered to express solidarity with Latino students at Royal Oak Middle School who were taunted last week by chants of “Build the Wall,” which Trump often used during the campaign.
Alicia Ramon, the mother of the Latina student who recorded the chants, called for an end to racism, saying that Latino, African-American and Asian-American students at Royal Oak Middle School have been subjected to repeated hate incidents over the past year. Minority students have had to deal with racist insults against them, including one once made over the intercom system, she said.
“Racism, bigotry is unacceptable in our country, in our state, in our schools” said Ryan Bates, who leads Michigan United, an advocacy group. “This country is beautiful because we are a multicultural democracy. No one should come first. No one should come last because of what color they are, when your family came here, or how they pray.”
Bates also called for resistance to Trump’s plans to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
“Mass deportations and roundups that can break apart families are inhumane, un-American, a moral monstrosity and an economic calamity,” Bates said. “And we are going to fight it every inch of the way.”
“We are going to resist the deportations. We are going to fight for our communities.”
About 100 people joined Bates on stage at the Detroit church near Comerica Park, which is known for its history of activism. They included advocates with the ACLU, National Lawyers Guild, ACCESS (formerly the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services), the UAW, and the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Cindy Estrada, a vice president with the UAW, called for fighting bias, and also fighting for economic justice, saying the election results are a sign many are unhappy with the economic status quo. She said she’s heard about some students getting excited that Trump’s win will lead to deportation of immigrants.
“There is so much fear among children,” said Estrada.
Estrada said labor and other organizers need to transform the fear into action.
“How do we take that anger and sadness and fear and really turn it into action,” Estrada said. “This is an opportunity for us to engage again, and to make sure we change this country so that all children have a home … are welcome.”
At the same time, Estrada expressed sympathy for Trump voters.
“There are so many people out there that voted for Donald Trump because they’re tired of the status quo,” Estrada said. “And we just got to talk to those people, and educate them and help them understand … focus on the real issues and not turn against each other.”
“We have to hold our leaders accountable,” Estrada said, praising Bernie Sanders. “The system we live in right now, it doesn’t work for our country. .. When 1% owns 50% of our cumulative wealth, we need to take our country back.”
But, she added, “we don’t have to fight hate with hate … it’s about fighting hate with love.”
Ramon, the mother of the student who recorded the “Build the wall” chants, said “hate and racism should not be tolerated and should not be accepted.” Ramon said the chants last week were the latest in a string of racist incidents at the Royal Oak school targeting minority students. “Our kids deserve to feel safe, and it’s our responsibility and our obligation to make sure that they are,” she said.
Ramon said she wants to work with “the school in helping to create a dialogue and a change, so that this message can go to communities across America … we can make a change and be that change we need to see in our communities.”
In an e-mail sent late Friday to the Free Press about the chants, Royal Oak District Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin said that “staff responded when the incident occurred. Adults not pictured in the video directed the group of students, who were saying ‘Build the wall,’ to stop.”
Protesters in Royal Oak march against Trump and bigotry
The Rev. Ed Rowe, previous pastor at Central United, and current cochair of Methodist Federation for Social Action, called upon houses of worship to be sanctuaries that can accept undocumented immigrants who need protection from deportation.
“Open up the sanctuary,” Rowe said, for those “whose very lives are in danger.”
“Resist evil and oppression,” Rowe said of Trump’s proposals.
Sergio Martinez, an undocumented immigrant who spoke in the church, said he was initially nervous about Trump’s win, but is heartened by the support of many in Detroit.
Nadia Tonova, the director of the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), a project of ACCESS, said that Arab Americans will not “hide in the shadows” under a Trump presidency.
“This is our country, too. … We are fully Americans.”
Bates also spoke up for those who might get their health insurance benefits cut under plans to rescind the Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare. He said his newborn baby was born premature, which many times used to lead to health insurance companies cutting health benefits.
“We fought like hell for him for four months in the hospital,” said Bates, his baby on stage held by his wife. “We’re going to fight like hell for years in the halls of Congress.”
Imam Mohammad Elahi, religious leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom of Dearborn Heights, called for an end to extremism, ending the program with a prayer.
DETROIT – Nearly 20 civil rights and Faith based organizations are coming together to condemn recent racist attacks on immigrants and vowing to act on behalf of undocumented immigrants.
The organizations involved said they’ve fielded calls from residents fearing backlash following last week’s presidential election and worried about what they believe will be mass deportations in the future.
Sergio Martinez is one of an estimated 100,00-150,000 immigrants in Michigan illegally. He fears his days as a Detroiter are numbered.
“We are not about violence,” Martinez said. “I’m not about looting, but we will do everything we can to protect our families.”
President-elect Donald Trump vowed to bring stronger immigration enforcement, starting with people who are in the country illegally and who have criminal records.
“Gang members, drug dealers, a lot of these people, 2 maybe 3 million people,” Trump said. “We are getting them out of our country.”
Immigrants rights organizations doubt it is only a purge on criminals.
“We reject the notion you can slice and dice the community into good immigrants and bad immigrants,” Randy Bates, of Michigan United, said.
They are seeking congregations willing to provide sanctuary to immigrant families in threat of deportation, and volunteer attorneys to defend them.
“We are getting calls, emails from lawyers, law students, college students, nuns, imams, pastors and hundreds of others who are saying this is not what America is about, and we are here to help you,” Ruby Robinson, of the Michigan Immigrants Rights Center, said.
“There’s no place for racism, especially in our schools,” Alicia Ramone said.
Immigrants hope Trump will put his words of reconciliation over the weekend into action, but they are taking action of their own. They are planning a “know your rights” town hall for the immigrant community this weekend.
Anyone who is concerned about being in danger of deportation, wants to learn their rights or find out more about the recruitment of attorneys can click here to learn more.
Alicia Ramone, mother of the 12-year-old girl who recorded a viral video of students chanting “build the wall” at Royal Oak Middle School last week, called for unity and civility at a Detroit gathering of community organizers Monday.
“We can change this if we stand united and work with the people around us,” she told the gathering of about 70 at Central United Methodist Church in Downtown Detroit.
Chants of “build the wall” yelled by students at Royal Oak Middle School were captured on video Wednesday.
The chant gradually grew larger and louder, she said.
“I don’t believe this incident speaks for the community at large, but last week during lunch, my daughter witnessed something that I never thought my daughter would see,” said Ramone, whose Hispanic family has lived in Royal Oak since 1994.
“It’s an injustice that I dedicated a big part of my life to try to make it a better place and here, 47 years later, she’s encountering the same.”
The chant was in reference to President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. And it came as reports of racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim incidents spiked around the country in the days following Trump’s election.
Students reportedly formed a wall to block minority students from getting into the school Wednesday morning.
Trump, in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday, told supporters who have engaged in acts of hate to “stop it.”
“I am so saddened to hear that,” he said. “And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it– if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.
Michigan United, an immigrant-rights group that has long criticized and demonstrated against immigration policies and deportations under President Barack Obama’s administration, gathered several community organizations for the Monday press conference in Detroit to stand against the recent spike in incidents of intimidation targeting minorities.
“I think it’s extremely important to not show fear, to not act like the last 15 years of work we’ve done for this movement, that we acknowledge it’s not going anywhere,” said Sergio Martinez, an activist who identified himself as a gay, undocumented immigrant.
“Those wins are still wins for our community and we need to protect that. How, is we meet with our officials and everybody we’ve met with for this movement and reach out to Republicans to who don’t necessarily agree with Trump’s rhetoric and proposals for immigration.”
A man told a University of Michigan student to remove her hijab or he’d set her on fire, police say.
Ramone said her daughter sent her the video with crying emoticons and the message: “I’m scared.”
She said her daughter was bombarded with criticism and accused of dividing people with the footage she recorded, but that she also was praised for showcasing what minorities often endure.
“This wasn’t about immigration or a platform or a policy, but this was about racism,” Ramone said. “Our kids deserve to be safe and we as parents owe it to them to make sure we work with the schools, because we’re all together in this and we make that difference.”
Rather than gathering only adults to draft solutions for the future of the community,
Ramone said her daughter’s school has been gathering feedback from both adults and students on solutions to the tensions exposed by the lunchroom chant.
Martinez said he plans to continue to help immigrants obtain valid identification to work and travel without concerns of deportation, and to register Hispanic U.S. citizens to vote.
“To think overnight that this president can really undo everything or try to work hard to undue everything we worked hard to accomplish,” Martinez said. “My main focus is to refresh those relationships with everyone we’ve met in the past five years and make sure that we stay as a welcoming city that isn’t going to stand up for this.”
The community is rising up against a string of racist incidents, happening days following the presidential election.
Activists and community minority groups are rising up against a string of racist incidents, happening days following the presidential election.
“Last week a Muslim woman at the University of Michigan was approached by a white man, he told her ‘Take off your hijab or I’ll let you on fire,'”said Ryan Bates, Michigan United.
One man, South Asian, found a swastika on his door and the words “Trump: make America great again.”
Community groups unite after string of racial incidents post-election
Then there was the video taken last week in the Royal Oak Middle School cafeteria, a group of students chanting “build the wall” The mother of the Hispanic student who took the now viral video, say the students who started the chant, passed notes to the Hispanic students, letting them know what time the chanting would start.
“She sent me the text message with the video and crying emojis saying ‘I’m scared,’ said Alicia Ramon.
Michigan United, the UAW, access and others joined together Monday for the press conference. More than a dozen civil rights and faith groups stood together at Central United Methodist church, vowing to work together against racism, and keep families safe for years to come.
Among those facing prejudice and tension, Michigan United estimates there are between 100,000-150,000 undocumented immigrants in Michigan alone.
“The biggest thing I want for my community immediately is to let them know that they should not be scared,” said Sergio Martinez of Michigan United. “If they are scared, we meet at churches so they can discuss their rights.”
All these people share the common goal to stop the tension before there’s more violence.
Ramon, at first, was scared for her daughter’s safety, when she posted the video.
“She felt like she was maybe not doing the right thing,” Ramon said. “She was afraid when she did it. But she knew she had to do that and she had to show people what was going on.”
Michigan United and other groups plan on holding more events like this until the tension eases.
Michigan United is organizing an army of volunteers to go door to door to make sure everyone in SW Detroit and Grand Rapids gets out to vote on Election Day, Tuesday November 8th.
We are a non-partisan organization, so we’re not out here to argue with anyone about politics, just ask them:
Do you plan to vote on Tuesday?
Do you know where your polling location is?
Do you need a ride?
Then say “Thank you very much” and it’s on to the next one.
In a world of Facebook ‘likes’ and email spam, nothing is more effective at getting someone to take action than looking them in the eye and asking “Are you going to vote?” And nothing gives you a better opportunity to do just that than spending a pleasant autumn day going door to door.
If you honestly believe in the power of the people to affect their destiny, if you believe in democracy, you MUST take part in the process. CLICK HERE to sign up today to canvass with Michigan United.
Refinery files motion to toss out class action lawsuit
Residents of Detroit’s Boynton subdivision in the 48217 zip code are anxiously awaiting a ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox who will decide in two weeks if they can proceed with their class action lawsuit against Marathon Petroleum Corporation. The suit was filed on behalf of beleaguered residents who live downwind of the refinery and seeks relief from the impact of refinery emissions and other quality of life issues. They are represented by a team of environmental attorneys from Washington, New York, Troy and Detroit.
The suit claims that petroleum production is adversely affecting the homeowners’ use and enjoyment of their property. Attorney Chris Nidel, of Nidel Law, says the refinery’s toxic emissions wake residents in the middle of the night. Residents also have coped with plant explosions and odors that emanate from the millions of gallons of wastewater that pass through their subdivision’s sewer. Refinery emissions consists of sulfur dioxide, benzene and other chemicals. Attorneys are seeking damages expected to run into the tens of millions of dollars.
“Listening to the Marathon attorney minimize and challenge the impact of the refinery on our community made me sad and angry,” says Michigan United environmental justice organizer Emma Lockridge, who is also a resident in the community. “It’s unethical for Marathon to deny and ignore the impact of their refinery that blanket our community with toxins. Sometimes it smells so bad, I have to sleep in a surgical mask.”
The lawsuit was filed in February of this year. The Court is currently considering how or whether to apply the statute of limitations.
Lack of federal protection under Voting Rights Act a serious concern
Immigrants rights groups have grown increasingly concerned with the tenor of this year’s political debate. Many fear that immigrant and Latino voters could be intimidated at the polls on Election Day by aggressive vote challenging. To ensure that every citizen is able to exercise their right to vote, Michigan United has organized 20 attorneys and law students to monitor for civil rights abuses at polling places on Election Day. In the event of problems, Michigan United will be in close contact with the City Clerk and the Department of Justice.
“Every citizen needs to be able to vote without intimidation or fear,” said attorney Lawrence Garcia of the Detroit-based Garcia Law Group , “This is especially important for immigrant, Latino, and minority communities which have historically faced barriers at the ballot box. I’m proud that the legal community is coming together to stand up for civil rights on Election Day.”
Civil rights groups are especially concerned this year, since this will be the first presidential election since 1965 without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. Congress failed to renew many aspects of the VRA in 2013, including key provisions that allowed the Department of Justice to deploy poll monitors in communities with a history of civil rights violations, including Detroit. DOJ monitors were present at several polling places in Southwest Detroit during the 2012 election.
Those who would like to volunteer with the effort can still call the Michigan United office at 877.507.7774.