DETROIT — A coalition of groups held a mock funeral for democracy in Michigan on Memorial Day at Galilee Baptist Church on the city's east side.
"Although this is a mock funeral, the death of democracy in Michigan is all too real. The appointment of emergency managers in Michigan cities and school districts has made our vote null and void," said Rainbow PUSH Michigan President Rev. D. Alexander Bullock. "The Michigan Board of Canvassers recent decision to deny Michigan citizens the opportunity to determine the future of Public Act 4 is a blatant form of voter suppression. Since the vote in Michigan is meaningless, we symbolically bury democracy."
The Michigan Board of Canvassers recently invalidated over 220,000 petition signatures. The petition was to put the question of Public Act 4 on the November ballot. The board ruled the petition type size was too small. The board vote was split 2-2 — Democrats against Republicans.
Rev. Bullock said a two-pronged attack is being waged on democracy in Michigan—voter suspension and voter suppression. Public Act 4 suspends voters' right to have the official they have elected exercise their duties, he said.
"If the voters in a municipality elect officials and the governor appoints a manager over those officials, then their votes have been suspended. In Detroit, Emergency Manager Roy Roberts gelded the Detroit Board of Education. It makes no decisions the people elected it to make."
Bullock said Michigan and other states have passed several laws that suppress voter rights as well.
Rev. Mayowa Lisa Reynolds, an assistant minister at Fellowship Chapel in Detroit officiated the pouring of libations for the "funeral."
"We pour libations as an African tradition to honor our ancestors," Rev. Reynolds said. "We honor those who risked everything for democracy, for freedom for liberation."
Rev. Reynolds said the strongest tenet of democracy is one vote, one person — every person is accounted for.
"So when you have a system that doesn't take into account, the people, that's the beginning of a dictatorship and aristocracy."
Organizers called Public Act 4 and new voting laws coming from Lansing an attack on democracy and a move to suppress the vote of the people.
"I'm hopeful the community organizers will come together as they did in Wisconsin and stop this attack on democracy and the democratic process," Reynolds said.
Bullock compared having extra ID to vote like having a poll tax on the poor.
"Liberty has been lynched," he said.
Rev. Bullock said the funeral is one in a series of events that will lead up to a national march against violence, poverty and bad public policy. The national march, set to commence Aug. 25, will focus on emergency reinvestment, economic recovery in urban America, the expansion of employment, educational opportunities for youth and returning citizens, the protection of our voting rights, reviving the ban on assault weapons, zero tolerance school expulsion and truancy policies and the racial divide in America. The march will feature peace and justice workshops, music, art, direct action trainings and a job fair.
"It is much more than a march, it is a movement," Bullock said.