Thursday, October 22, 2020

'Respect our wishes or resign': Protesters march to Lansing mayor's house with demands

Organizer Paul Birdsong opens dialogue with mayor, protesters demand change or his resignation

June 7, 2020

After six days of peacefully protesting on the Michigan State Capitol steps and marching through downtown Lansing and East Lansing, organizer Paul Birdsong wanted to try something bigger. To push for change faster, Birdsong and a group of protesters marched to Lansing Mayor Andy Schor’s house with a list of demands.

The changes Birdsong and others in the community are demanding to be made go as follows:

  • Police de-escalation and implicit bias training in a place visible to the public

  • Both El-Shabazz Academy and the Black Child and Family Institute to reopen and be fully functional

  • Mentorship programs every weekend in four different parks where food, books and activities are provided for free

They want these demands paid for through the city's public services fund and police fund.

Protesters marched through the streets of Lansing in unison, blocking off traffic as they made their way to Schor’s house.

When protesters arrived at the mayor's house, he was gone. It took two phone calls — one from First Ward City Council member Brandon Betz and another from Birdsong — to get Schor back to his house.

While protesters waited, they filled the street outside of his house, sharing food and water.

Schor came home about 30 minutes after the protesters arrived, where he was met by Birdsong. Birdsong opened a dialogue about the Lansing community's demands in a conversation with Schor.

To make sure the mayor understood the seriousness of this group, Birdsong explained how long he has been demonstrating at the Michigan Capitol and what this group of protesters have been able to do in one week. Birdsong said to Schor that he would keep coming back until changes are made or he resigns.

“I want you to understand my resolve ... we’ve been here since Sunday," Birdsong said. "When it was raining, we were laying in front of the Capitol with our faces on the ground and our hands behind our back while the rain was building up on our faces. We didn’t move. We’re not gonna move. So, these demands will be met or you will resign, and until one of the two will happen, we ain’t going nowhere.”

After hearing their concerns, Schor said his next course of action is to hold a town hall.

“It’s people expressing their concerns, their demands, the things that they want to see in Lansing,” Schor said. “We have a lot of people who are sharing a lot of information with me right now. ... We have a diversity and inclusion commission who are setting up a town hall, where we have a chance for the community to come in and talk and discuss. I'm going to hear that and create an action plan."


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