Today we marched through the streets of downtown Detroit towards the Cobo convention center where the North American International Auto Show launched into the first day of glitz, glam, and greenwash. More than sixty students from a half-dozen campuses around Michigan carpooled (for lack of another option) to Detroit to send a clear message to the auto industry: “We refuse to drive cars that are driving global warming.”
This rally concluded a three day training organized by the Freedom from Oil Campaign. The Transportation Challenge Weekend Getaway invited students from campuses across Michigan to Detroit for skills-building, networking and this historic auto show action.
It was a high-energy affair with drumming, dancing and chanting. Clad in mechanic coveralls and green hard hats, the students demanded a shift to green manufacturing to revitalize Michigan and cut global warming pollution.
Despite the students’ pure intentions, the police would not allow the group to get within two blocks of the convention center, demonstrating the automakers’ unchecked influence in…well…Motor City. And although they opted to protect the automakers’ greenwash instead of young people’s voices for green jobs and green cars (even allowed cattle to run free in the street but not us – not a joke), it didn’t prevent us from getting out our message.
Check out some more pics.
Then we saw about 100 green balloons floating above the convention center…an ominous sign since two students had taken a different approach to get inside. Equipped with a banner that read “Toyota: Pull Up Your Pruis, Your Tundra is Showing,” they tried to release the message attached to the balloons inside the lobby of the auto show, so it would float up for all to see. Not surprisingly, they were restrained and detained, but luckily not arrested.
This kind of intimidation and restraint is becoming a predictable pattern at these auto shows. Capitulation to the auto companies by police is more and more explicit at each event, and the limitation of our freedom of speech upon the pretense of petty ordinances and permitting was hardly surprising, albeit equally disturbing.
Despite the obstacles, it was an incredible weekend. The students inspired us and each other with their creativity, commitment and smooth dance moves! The number of organizations that helped us make it a success – SDS, Energy Action, the MSSC, Coop America, Global Exchange – is a testament to the incredibly collaborative spirit of this exploding youth climate change movement.
Vows have already been made to return in bigger numbers next year if we have to. Take note, Brian Albright of the Michigan State Police.