“We’ll Be Back”: Mass Action at the Auto Show Prom

by Elia Hohauser-Thatcher

Photo: Joseph Xu

On January 18th, hundreds gathered in front of the Cobo Center to protest the Auto Show’s Charity Preview, otherwise known as Auto Show Prom. Despite the freezing temperatures, several groups turned out to air grievances against General Motors including Detroit DSA, Auto Workers Caravan, Breathe Free Detroit, Good Jobs Now, UNIFOR, EMEAC and many others.

The action was highly organized, with assigned roles to ensure safety and maximum disruption. Police liaisons, legal observers, line marshals, and media spokespeople were all present to make the protest a success. Perhaps most notable was the inclusion of yellow vests to represent solidarity with Mouvement des gilets jaunes in France.

While there were many groups represented with varied goals, the sheer number of people in attendance made one thing clear: GM had touched a nerve with the working class in Detroit. With the brightly colored signs and vests, the mini-marching band procession, and the four huge banners that read: “Detroit Demands A Green New Deal,” one might have almost mistaken the protest for a parade. But the undercurrent of anger was always there.

It could be felt every time a huge black Cadillac pulled up, every time a group of people in tuxedos and cocktail dresses tried to push past the protest with their heads down, every time a protestor made eye contact with one of the dozens of police officers present. And that anger was expressed in every chorus of which side are you on? in time to the marching horns, in Rashida Tlaib’s rousing five-minute speech through a bullhorn (“I will sit on the United States Congress and stand in the streets with you!”), and in the chants of Fuck GM! and Eat The Rich! toward the end of the protest.

Auto Prom attendees arrive. Photo: Joseph Xu

When the working class puts aside difference and unites to act against greedy corporations, there can only be victory. And make no mistake, this was a victory. Through excellent organization and hard work, Detroit DSA and its partners showed the true power of working-class unity. GM has been forced to take note of this action and know that more is coming. As the protest broke up around 7:30 PM, someone began a chant that was simple, but no less poignant: We’ll be back! It was the last thing protesters chanted at those huge, brightly lit windows in Cobo. A promise that will be fulfilled.

Video report by Louise Baliguet
Flyer distributed during the protest.

Join the Detroit Coalition for a Green New Deal

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Website: Detroit Coalition for a Green New Deal

Call your elected officials to demand a public hearing on the GM plant closures and a Green New Deal:
U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (586) 738–0116

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (313) 423–6183

City Council Member Mary Sheffield (313) 628–1119

Mayor Mike Duggan (313) 224–3400