Cries of “Affirmative action will not die” and “We won’t take re-segregation” erupted as members of pro-affirmative action group BAMN marched down State Street Friday in an effort to rally against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.
MCRI seeks to eliminate affirmative action by government bodies in the state and could end up on the 2006 statewide ballot if enough of the 508,000 signatures that were collected are valid.
Part of this weekend’s Civil Rights Conference to Organize the Defense of Affirmative Action in Michigan, the march around campus ended on the Diag, where speakers — including national BAMN leadership, University BAMN members and students from various Detroit high schools — addressed what can be done to combat MCRI.
“We are definitely fighting to win,” said LSA junior and BAMN organizer Monica Smith. “We’re going to fight like hell.”
Smith said the first way BAMN will contest MCRI is through legal arguments by saying that those who collected signatures to get MCRI on the 2006 ballot misled the people who signed the petition.
BAMN’s national co-chair Luke Massie agreed with Smith, saying that a survey conducted by BAMN found that 95 percent of Detroit voters who signed the petition were misinformed about the petition’s goals.
“The deception that went on in the circulation of the petition is broad and deep,” Massie said.
MCRI spokesman Chetly Zarko has said his organization has been transparent in revealing its intention to put an end to affirmative action in state institutions.
Members of the conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom protested BAMN’s rally and voiced their support for MCRI.
YAF members held signs that read, “Affirmative action is racism” and “Not all white men are privileged,” while shouting remarks in defiance of the speeches by BAMN members.
LSA senior Eric Weiler, who is the press coordinator for YAF, said his group needed to protest the rally because affirmative action must be eliminated. Instead of reversing the effects of racism, affirmative action fosters racial resentment, he said.
“It just creates more division in our society,” Weiler said.
He said race should not be the only factor that is used.
“It just looks at race as a proxy for socioeconomic status,” Weiler said. “Race is just not a good way to do it.”
BAMN did not have permission to march in the street from the city of Ann Arbor. Permission is required whenever an event obstructs traffic, said AAPD Sgt. Jim Baird. Yet because the march lasted so briefly, the AAPD did not know about it, he added.
A common theme in the speeches presented on the Diag was the disadvantages many underrepresented minorities face, including inferior facilities, instruction and learning environments in urban schools.
“We are way more intelligent than our school shows,” said Johnathan Crutchar, a sophomore at Cody High School in Detroit.
Crutchar, along with other BAMN members from both the University and Detroit-area schools, worked to organize the conference for two months. The main goal of the conference was to create a strategy to oppose MCRI, Crutchar said.
“We know this is the fight of our lives,” he said.
Smith said having the high school students involved was essential because of the role students played in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
“(The Civil Rights Movement) would have been nothing without the high school students,” Smith said, adding that the only way to save affirmative action is to have the high school students involved again.