Tents and tense times

Jun 17, 2009 at 12:00 am

News Hits spent a little time with the residents of the roughly 20-tent city that's popped up in Detroit's Grand Circus Park to protest the economic summit at the RenCen, where bankrupt General Motors has its world headquarters.

After morning speeches and discussions, more than 100 people marched down Woodward to where the titans of industry and finance had gathered to figure a way out of this mess that they, and those like them, are largely responible for getting us into.

Housing foreclosures. Job losses. Cuts in benefits. A pair of wars. These were all issues signs carried by the protesters drew attention to.

As fired-up speakers stood on the sidewalk outside the RenCen and shouted through a bullhorn at bigwigs who couldn't hear them, with a line of cops making sure the executives weren't interrupted, we thought how the scene symbolized the way insiders gather to make policy while the masses remain on the outside, left only to bear the consequences.

Among those on the outside was Gwen Gaines, 57, who works part time providing care to a woman suffering from lung cancer. She also puts in time with the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization where, she says, "The phones ring all day long."

Another camper was Larry Holmes, 56, a community organizer from New York City. He talked about Detroit and how people around the country should start paying attention.

"In a lot of cities, things are bad, but not as bad as Detroit," he observes. "But they could be."