Macomb County GOP Chair Cathy Kirk decided to book Steve Bannon as the keynote speaker for a Republican "Unity Dinner" at the Warren Andiamo, and Metro Detroit refused to take that endorsement of white supremacy lying down. MDPAN teamed with the Detroit and Ohio branches of Refuse Fascism along with Stop Trump Ann Arbor to protest this attempt to normalize Bannon's hateful views and policies, such as the Muslim travel bans, mass deportation of Latin and Arabic/Chaldean residents and attempted ban of Transgender troops.
As the sun set on the border of Warren and Sterling Heights, MI, 120 protesters gathered to denounce the wellspring of hate epitomized by the banquet. In addition to the organizing groups, members from the North Macomb, North Oakland and Troy Democratic Clubs added to the resistance, as well as a contingent from the far left, represented by Solidarity & Defense. IONA and Emgage, two Islamic organizations, also helped bolster the protest in advance of their post-event conference. The fully intersectional alliance also featured a tuba player and a banana:
The demonstration was in full swing by 5 PM, with chants of "No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA" and "Danger, danger, there's a fascist in the white house" echoing across 14 Mile Rd. during rush hour traffic. Traffic was further complicated by a heavy police presence, with Warren PD blocking off the median and sections of the Andiamo parking lot, along with mounted police from Oakland and Macomb County across the street.
While Warren PD kept the pro- and anti-fascist camps separated on opposite sides of the restaurant, a white supremacist podcast team skulked into the protest zone posing as a media outlet. They made clear their intent to antagonize by espousing the values of Bannon's attempted pogrom against Arab and Latin Americans and discrimination of homosexuals. After numerous attempts to provoke violence, they were surrounded by the resistance with a deafening chorus of "Nazis Go Home!" and steered towards the edge of the camp. With assistance from the Warren PD, the agitators were non-violently dispatched from the scene.
As stars twinkled in the night sky, the protest gained more momentum. Banquet attendees were forced to shuttle to the Andiamo lot due to the demonstration, and were greeted with a cacophony of disgust. Chants of "Nazis Go Home!" and "No Hate in Our State" rained down on the trickle of patrons scurrying to the venue. Bannon himself was reported to have slunk in and out of the back entrance.
The demonstration also gave time for speakers, with William Antoun of IONA calling out specific elected and appointed local officials attending the dinner. In addition to Cathy Kirk, he also put Gus Ghanam (Warren Sanitation Dept. Superintendent) and Cecil St. Pierre (Warren City Council President) on blast for their xenophobic and anti-Islamic stances. St. Pierre was also recently involved in a scandal where he hijacked estates of the recently deceased for profit. Beyond local officials, numerous state level politicians (and hopefuls), threw their hat in the ring for white supremacy. The Detroit News reported governor candidates Bill Schuette (current Attorney General) and Patrick Colbeck, plus US Senate candidates John James and Bob Young Jr were present in support. Warren Weekly stated US Representative Paul Mitchell and Shelby Township Clerk (and Secretary of State hopeful) Stanley Grot were also in attendance.
Outside, Solidarity & Defense brought their A game in the entertainment department. With a large speaker embedded in a backpack, they blasted YG & Nipsey Hussle's "FDT", an anti-Trump anthem. One representative also spoke of the importance in standing in solidarity with the workers of Andiamo. After Bannon was announced as a speaker, it was met with overwhelming resistance from the staff, with many refusing to work it and encouraging others to do the same, bravely refusing to play party to Bannon's hateful politics, even at the cost of personal income.
Those divisive politics were confirmed by the meager eight individuals who counter protested on the opposite side of the restaurant. James Beary, a resident of Grosse Ile, was interviewed by Warren Weekly and marched with Nazis in Charlottesville, proudly branding himself a European White Nationalist. Unemployed property tax dodger Rob Cortis also brought his metallic abomination, the Trump Unity Bridge to the event, ironically blasting Sly and the Family Stone while emphatically supporting a culture of police brutality that disproportionately targets black people.
The Warren Police Dept. conducted itself professionally, and expended considerable resources to ensure the safety of the protesters, including barricades and swift removal of the aforementioned white supremacist agitators. Reports from demonstrators about County officers were less than stellar, including honking for the Trump Bridge from a police cruiser, and intimidating resistance members walking to their cars by slowly trailing them on the sidewalk with another cruiser or briefly surrounding them.
While the message of rich, white, male, Christian supremacy may have united the GOP members lapping up Bannon's hateful rhetoric, the protest against them was even more galvanizing for the left. Establishment Democrats stood shoulder to shoulder with Socialists. Christians, Jewish people and Muslims chanted together. Black, brown and white people denounced this millennium's Nazi resurgence. The America that this resistance is creating is one that welcomes people of all races, genders, sexualities, religions and will not tolerate racist misogynists that align themselves with scum like Bannon.