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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > ‘Jobs’ — What a Monstrous Lie

“If this was occurring in Poland, there would be an international uproar and demands for a United Nations inquiry,” said Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland).

Let’s see if you agree with her.

Suppose a Central Industrial Authority in Warsaw had condemned a 465-acre area which included the homes of 3,500 people, 150 small stores and shops, along with 14 churches, two schools and one hospital. The only reason for demolishing this community and evicting the inhabitants was that the area was needed for a luxury automobile factory which would include many acres of landscaping and parking where most of the people and churches were located.

The people did not want to be evicted. They did not want their churches destroyed. So a group of parishioners took refuge in one of the largest chur­ches, a. beautiful place of worship that also was a cultural center for more than half a century, to try to save it from the wreckers. Then, while still dark at around 5 a.m., the police arrived, tied a chain to the church door and a tow-truck ripped it out. The officers rushed in, arrested the parishioners, many of them elderly, and hauled them off to jail.

The condemnation by the Western World against “atheistic communism” and the crushing of the rights of a community for a factory would be quite resoun­ding. Obviously, it would be said, the factory could be built elsewhere.

Well, friends, all the above did not happen in Warsaw last week. It happened in Detroit, Mich., U.S.A., with General Motors and City Hall behind the destruction.

The 62-year-old Immaculate Conception Church, resting on less than one-half acre near the edge of the condemned 465 acres, was raided in the early morning hours by Mayor Coleman Young’s police. Young’s rage against this church can be compared to Captain Ahab’s in Moby Dick. The church was a symbol of defiance and resistance to the mayor’s indentured work for the ruler of Detroit—the giant General Motors Corp. Young wanted the church demolished fast and paid the demolition company, surrounded by police holding back a tearful and bitter group of parishioners, to crumble this proud, beautiful structure in eight hours of frenzied bulldozing.

When the first blow by the steel ball crashed against the Twombly Street side of the rectory, several of the parishioners is spontaneous unison cried out as if they had been struck. A few minutes later, the church’s pastor knelt down with them to pray. The Detroit television stations covered these scenes live, and the newspapers displayed large pictures. But what did not come across the media was the true feelings of the police.

“You’ve got to feel bad for the little people, a big corporation like General Motors coming in and pushing them all out,” said one policeman. “They built it (the church), all right, didn’t they?” one of­ficer, sitting in his squad car, said. “They took a stable neighborhood and destroyed it.”

Ask GM and Mayor Young why and they both reply with one word: “Jobs.” The homes and churches of workers have to be destroyed for “jobs”? What a monstrous lie! A Cadillac factory does not have to be built on the rubble of an historic Polish-American neighborhood which in recent years had become half black and half white.

The proposed 70-acre factory, for example, could be built elsewhere, only a few hundred yards from Poletown where nearly 400 acres of industrial land are available. Even on the present site, mast of the displaced Poletown refugees and the churches were living where GM plans a flat parking lot and land­scaping.

The Poletown residents begged GM to consider the nearby site or, at least, to build a vertical parking lot to spare many homes and churches. GM refused, saying it was not feasible. GM also refused, in sub­sequent court actions, – to fully disclose what the company’s builders could do, as indeed Japanese auto factories already have done, to save acreage.

Drunk with their vast power and blackmail strategies, large companies like General Motors now cruise the country offering to consider building a factory if the cities or counties or states provide them with sufficiently lucrative taxpayer bribes. This is what GM did to Detroit and the servile Mayor Young put together a $200 million package of federal, state and local subsidies to help .the world’s second-largest corporation makes it billions in private profits. He followed this giveaway with a reduction of 50 percent in GM, property taxes for the new plant and a payments schedule for the subsidy debt that will assure no net payments from the factory to the city until after the year 2000.

Conservative and liberal groups alike have con­demned General Motors’ destruction of Poletown. As a dissenting justice of the Michigan Supreme Court wrote, what home, church or business is safe from this misuse of eminent domain authority to seize private property in order to transfer it to a private corporation for profit?