But some Detroit politicians and racial demagogues seemed bent on turning the event into a rallying cry against Gov. Rick Snyder and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, drawing audible sighs from many in the crowd. Campaign workers also peddled literature for mayoral and city council candidates.
“This is disgusting,” one demonstrator complained. “This is supposed to be about Travyon.”
Among the roughly dozen speakers was Sam Riddle, one of the city’s most notorious public corruption figures.
“Detroit is Trayvon Martin,” Riddle, who was released from prison seven months ago, told the crowd.
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He blamed some of the city’s problems on “white-ass Lansing” and “do-nothing” Mayor Bing.
One of the flyers declared, “THIS IS WAR!” against Snyder and Orr.
“The national outrage over the acquittal of George Zimmerman for killing African-American youth Trayvon Martin is still roiling, yet another racist injustice on a national scale has occurred: The undemocratic action of an appointed ’emergency manager’ plunging Detroit into the largest city bankruptcy in U.S. history,” the flyer from Moratorium Now! Coalition read.
Despite the distractions, the rally was a touching, inspiring tribute to a teenager killed too early. Eyes swelled with tears. Parents clutched the hands of their children. “We are Trayvon,” signs read.
Local civil rights leader Rev. Charles Williams II urged the audience to seize the moment and stand up against racial injustice.
“This is your 1964 Civil Rights Movement,” Williams said into a megaphone. “Stand up, Detroit. This is our time.”
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.