Hundreds rally for Green New Deal outside Detroit Dem debate

Climate protest before the Democratic debate | Andrew Roth

A raucous rally to draw attention to the impending climate disaster took place in Detroit just before the first night of Democratic presidential debates in Detroit.

Green New Deal protest outside the Democratic debate | Susan J. Demas

Hundreds of activists waving signs backing the progressive Green New Deal — as well as supporting other causes including abortion and immigration rights — rallied at Cass Park. They then marched outside the Fox Theatre where the debate featuring 10 candidates was held. Police stopped protesters a couple blocks away and some protesters said they weren’t happy with the heavy presence.

“There is no debate about the need to embrace a Green New Deal,” said Justin Onwenu of the Sierra Club. “Our own direct experience with flooding from record rains, lead in school water pipes has made Detroiters more than ready to make a Green New Deal happen. Between the climate crisis and the social, political and economic crisis in the wake of the emergency managers, we have a lot of rebuilding to do.”

For many activists, the lack of time devoted to climate change in Tuesday’s debate proved why they’ve been clamoring for a forum dedicated to the issue.

“It’s unsurprising and disheartening that CNN chose to gloss over climate change despite the crisis we’re facing,” said CREDO Action Campaign Manager Jelani Drew-Davi. “In six hours of debate, there have only been three main questions about the solutions proposed by each Democratic candidate, and that is unacceptable.

“We must have a Democratic primary debate focused on climate change in order to truly have a substantive discussion that reaches the most people possible — not multi-day forums, cattle call town halls, or unwatched summits.”

Pro-labor activists at the climate protest before the Democratic debate | Andrew Roth

Protestors sought to draw attention to a number of environmental issues, including the Flint water crisis and pollution in Detroit. They also argued that the Green New Deal will reinvigorate the economy. Several union members were on hand advocating for a $15 minimum wage, which the Democratic-led U.S. House passed this month.

“Anyone who wants to lead the richest, most powerful nation on earth has a moral obligation to protect human life and to support grassroots efforts for environmental justice and that means support of a Green New Deal,” said Crystal Stewart of Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan.

“We Detroiters can build the wind turbines, solar panels and battery storage that can help save us from the worst of the storms, fires and floods that come with the climate crisis. In the process, those union jobs can help rebuild Detroit and the region.”

Marianne Williamson, Tim Ryan, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, John Hickenlooper, John Delaney and Steve Bullock at the first Democratic debate in Detroit | Andrew Roth

Tuesday’s debate featured featured: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and author Marianne Williamson.

The Wednesday debate kicks off at 8 p.m. A pro-immigration protest is scheduled beforehand.

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Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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