DETROIT — Facing the state’s top officials, Michigan
residents gathered downtown yesterday to present their social and
political agendas in hopes of finding common ground with
politicians, and among each other.

In a vibrant and powerful expression of democracy, between 2,500
and 3,000 people assembled at the University of Detroit Mercy. The
aim of the rally held by the Metropolitan Organizing Strategy
Enabling Strength, a coalition of institutions including the
University, was to build regional unity around social issues from
civil rights to health care.

Michigan is one of the most racially polarized, politically
divided and educationally segregated states, said the Rev. Kevin
Turman, president of MOSES. He said MOSES believes that existing
government policies — many of which disenfranchise minority
groups, he added — are responsible for these divisions.
“We are determined to either change current politics or
change the current politicians,” Turman said.

Students, professors and residents of Ann Arbor piled into
University-provided buses to attend the rally. Among them was LSA
senior Samantha Woll. “It’s important to me as a
student activist at the University to discuss an agenda for
regional unity,” she said.

First on MOSES’s agenda for regional unity was increased
protection of civil rights. A MOSES representative announced the
formation of a civil rights task force that will work with state
legislators and the Michigan Insurance Commissioner to end
insurance redlining — a practice that, according to Turman,
“sets insurance rates based more on one’s zip code
rather than one’s driving or claims record.”

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick promised to aid the task force in
all its future work.

Members of Congress were also asked to use their political clout
to pass a Civil Liberties Restoration Act. If passed, this act will
drastically reduce the current waiting period required for
immigrant residency hearings.

Health care also took the stage when Granholm announced a new
initiative which invites states to join together in lowering costs
of prescription drugs. Michigan “needs to pool the uninsured
and pool with other states to buy prescription drugs in bulk and
lower costs,” Granholm said. The current pooling process
provides a 20 percent discount to every uninsured Michigan
resident. This discount, Granholm said, is available to persons of
all age and should be widely employed. “I encourage you all
to sign up. The greater the number, the greater the
discount.”

LSA sophomore Jed Vanderklok, who attended the rally to
“increase his awareness of social issues and hear current
public figures speak,” applauded the governor’s health
care plans. “Pooling the uninsured is a really good idea
because it will save people a lot of money,” Vanderklok
said.

Regarding the fight against crime, Wayne County Sheriff Warren
Evans proposed the planning of a regional Crime and Safety Action
Summit, where state and law enforcement officials will discuss
methods of increasing Michigan “safe zones,” where
residents travel door to door gathering information about crime hot
spots. Law enforcement officials will subsequently be held
responsible for addressing problems identified in those areas.

A handful of University students, all members of Michigan
Student Assembly’s voter registration committee Voice Your
Vote, were acknowledged for their commitment to a recently launched
voter protection team. This consortium of students and regional
representatives plans to disperse its members across polling sites
in Detroit and other areas known for mishandling votes, in order to
ensure that ballots are properly counted on Nov. 2.

“Misinformation and miscommunication is the number one
reason why people are disenfranchised at the polls,” said LSA
senior and Voter Protection Team member Evan Major. “We will
make sure that people don’t get turned away at the
polls.”

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