Activists push back against Lansing shutdown of homeless site in ‘Moral Mondays’ event

Lansing City Hall | Susan J. Demas

The Lansing chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign carried out a spirited vehicle caravan and rally in downtown Lansing during a chilly Monday afternoon. The activists pushed back on city policies that they say have had adverse results on city residents. 

The effort is believed to be the first “Moral Mondays” demonstration in Lansing staged by the national civil rights organization co-chaired by Bishop William Barber. The protests, which began in North Carolina in 2013, are designed to restore “morality” in areas of government. They have resulted in civil various disobedience protests across the country. 

Michigan “Moral Mondays” event | Screenshot

The Monday effort  focused on city government action to shut down on the “Back 40” Lansing homeless community. City officials previously stated that conditions at the site, located in a vacant lot at the corner of North Larch Street and East Saginaw Highway, were “inhumane” and “unsafe,” according to a Lansing State Journal report.    

The caravan circled several blocks that included Capitol Avenue, Ottawa Street, Michigan Avenue and Washington Square. The rally took place in front of Lansing City Hall. 

“The capital of Michigan continues to traumatize the homeless and coming in and throwing away their lives, tents, clothes and food. Throwing away their lives in a dump truck while people plead and cry out for them to stop,” said the Rev. Derrick Knox Jr., pastor of the Church of Elohim in Lansing, and Michigan Poor People’s Campaign quad chair. 

A call and an email to Lansing Mayor Andy Schor’s office was not returned.  

In 2018, the Poor People’s Campaign set forth a comprehensive Moral Agenda based on the “needs and demands of the 140 million Americans.” It takes its name from the 1968 effort led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. King and others called for a “revolution of values” in America and marched on several American cities calling for reforms. The effort culminated in Washington, D.C., only weeks after King’s assassination on April 4, 1968.

Barber calls on Trump, U.S. Senate to back Poor People’s Campaign

The campaign calls for:

  • Restoring and expanding the Voting Rights Act. 
  • Fully-funding social welfare programs that provide cash and in-kind assistance directly to the poor, including poor families.
  • Expanding Medicaid in every state, protecting Medicare and instituting single-payer universal health care for all.
  • Ending mass incarceration and inequalities for Black, Brown and poor white people within the criminal justice system.
  •  Banning assault rifles and “the easy access to firearms that has led to the increased militarization and weaponization of our communities.”
  • Implementing 100% clean, renewable energy and a public jobs program to “transition to a green economy that will put millions of people in sustainable living wage jobs.”

The Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, joined the effort remotely and supported the action. 

“There are high levels of people losing their water and utilities right in the middle of a pandemic, right at the middle of a time when millionaires and billionaires have actually seen their wealth increase,” she said. “This is not right. This is not just, and, and therefore, we stand in solidarity with everybody in Michigan who is organizing for our rights and for our dignity.” 

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.