The Rev. Jesse Jackson calls on Michigan residents to fight what he calls Gov. Rick Snyder's 'draconian policies'
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
The Rev. Jesse Jackson made a stop in Ann Arbor this afternoon to urge residents to organize and fight back against what he labeled Gov. Rick Snyder’s “draconian cuts” and policies.
It was one of Jackson’s three stops in Michigan throughout the day and he is scheduled to meet with state legislators in Detroit tonight. His purpose, he said, is to develop a coalition against Snyder’s policies like that in Wisconsin opposed to Gov. Scott Walker's policies.
Jackson told an audience of about 50 gathered at the New Hope Baptist Church to pay close attention to Benton Harbor, which recently had its elected officials' power stripped by an emergency financial manager.
It was one of the first cities to be affected by a new state law allowing emergency financial managers to dismiss locally elected officials. City leaders in Benton Harbor can now only call meetings, adjourn them and approve minutes. Jackson questioned why the United States is fighting a war against "one-man rule" in Libya, but allows it in Michigan.
“We don’t like one-man rule, except in Benton Harbor,” he said. “The government in Michigan government is training one-man rule. We are setting up here what we are fighting there. Your vote for elected officials doesn’t count, and that is decimating democracy.“
He said he doesn’t see the level of organized opposition that he saw while working with protesters in Wisconsin and warned the audience that Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit could be taken over by an emergency financial manger next if there isn’t a legal and political fight. He called Benton Harbor a test ground to see how people will react.
“The only difference between Michigan and Wisconsin is they’re fighting back,“ he said. “What’s happening here is worse than Wisconsin, but here there is no resistance."
The difference between Michigan and Wisconsin, Jackson said, is that Michigan lacks Wisconsin's political drama and national media attention. He said Walker is “the poster child for pervasive state rights” and “attacks on collective bargaining,” while Snyder is more of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Jackson said Snyder proposing cutting taxes for the wealthy and businesses while shifting the burden to the poor is unacceptable and called on residents to act. He zeroed in on student loan debt, which he pointed out is now greater than credit card debt in the United States. Jackson called the issue “credit slavery.”
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
When asked what he proposed doing about student loans by an audience member, Jackson said the government needs to consider debt forgiveness. He said raising tuition and cutting public schools' budgets makes receiving an education more difficult, which he likened to what was done to slaves and poor people prior to the Civil War.
In response to a question about how to get African Americans to vote more, Jackson said they are voting, but not “on the levels that are corresponding to our needs.”
He said people of all races must fight as they did during the civil rights fight of the 1960s and form an “activist alliance" in opposition to Snyder.
“What can we do? We can fight legally. This must stand the test of constitutional challenge,” he said.
Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2530.