Marchers participated in a rally yesterday that was aimed at both commemorating the principles of Martin Luther King Jr. and protesting the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.
BAMN — an activist group that supports affirmative action — organized the rally, which attracted 150 participants and started at noon on the corner of South University Avenue and South Forest Street. Marchers continued down to State Street and eventually ended at the Natural Science Building.
Students from Detroit middle and high schools showed up by busloads in the morning to support the rally. BAMN leaders continually stressed the importance of utilizing high school leaders to oppose MCRI — a ballot initiative that would end affirmative action in the state.
Due to the weather conditions, BAMN organizer and School of Education graduate student Kate Stenvig said the rally was held in the auditorium of the Natural Science Building instead of the Diag, which was the original plan. Stenvig also said the weather led the marchers to go through their route faster than planned.
“We didn’t want people to freeze to death,” Stenvig said.
The march was the kickoff to a day that BAMN devoted to developing a strategy to battle MCRI, which recently turned in over 500,000 signatures to the state — a number that will place the initiative on the 2006 statewide ballot if the signatures are verified by the Michigan Secretary of State.
National BAMN co-chair Shanta Driver said BAMN is now targeting those very signatures to contest their legitimacy. Driver said the petitions were gathered in a deceptive way.
“People were deceived (because of the language). Also people who were on parole were the people who circulated the petitions. We want to find out if Klan members circulated the petitions, because they’re in support of it,” Driver said.
She added that for the next six weeks, BAMN will concentrate on getting at least 100,000 people who signed the first petition to sign a separate petition issued by BAMN, called “Fraud Must Not Overturn Civil Rights Law”. This petition states that there was deception in MCRI’s petition, and that the initiative should be stated in clearer language.
Rackham student Ben Royal said BAMN’s primary goal is to prevent MCRI from getting on the ballot. Royal said BAMN plans to present its petition to the Election Committee, which will be meeting in six to eight weeks, in hopes that it will not validate MCRI’s signatures.
Royal added that if BAMN fails to prevent MCRI from being on the ballot in 2006, there are a number of other legal strategies they will pursue — most notably having MCRI revised for the ballot so that the language is clear and plain.
Driver said that in cities like Houston, where MCRI had been forced to revise the language of its initiative when collecting signatures, people had voted against the initiative because the wording made it clear that it was a vote against affirmative action.
Stephanie Newsone, a student from Charles L. Spain Junior High School, said she was happy to be part of the event despite the cold weather.
“We wanted to support equality of our nation and all nations that are segregated from others. (We want to) stop segregating in America,” Newsone said.