Detroit showed its soul at yesterday’s demonstration in solidarity with the suffering people of Gaza. It was historic in important ways:
The event was organized in the community by a small group of young adults, most of them leavened as activists in Students for Justice in Palestine groups and other student organizational chapters at Wayne State University in Detroit and University of Michigan campuses in Dearborn and Ann Arbor. These young but seasoned activists made the jump from campus to the off-campus community, bringing their organizing skills to the streets of Detroit in an event that energized the community. Turnout was estimated by organizers as exceeding 1,000 — an unusually large pedestrian turnout in this city of car addicts. The event was well-planned and executed. The impact was powerful.
The event was not on the familiar safe turf in Dearborn, but in the streets of Detroit, with supporters marching proudly up Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s main street, through the City’s theater, sports, and entertainment district, in the midst of the annual free “Concert of Colors.” This was an historic act of courage, pride, and self-confidence by the metro area’s Arab American and Muslim communities. The experience was entirely peaceful, orderly, and positive, with numerous automotive passersby expressing solidarity, many with Palestinian flags streaming from car windows.
Detroit police were helpful and respectful of demonstrators’ First Amendment rights, earning demonstrators’ gratitude.
Most importantly, in this city of colors and solidarity, the demonstration was itself an act of solidarity. Participants and their youthful leaders came from a broad spectrum of the population, including Palestinian and other Arab Americans, African Americans, Muslims, Jews, and Christians. There were raps from Invincible, an Israeli-American performer, and Will Copeland, an African American environmental and social activist in Detroit. I was proud to be in the crowd.
There are some great photos of yesterday’s demo here, showing its size, by Mirna Haidar, one of the organizers.