HIGHLAND PARK, MI — The People’s Tribune’s, Sandy Reid, interviewed Linda G. Wheeler about the destruction of thousands of books in Highland Park, Michigan.
People’s Tribune: How were 10,000 school books destroyed?
Linda G. Wheeler: We received a phone call from a parent volunteer that the (governor appointed) Emergency Manager for the Highland Park School District, Donald Weatherspoon, trashed the Highland Park Senior High School Library. He threw thousands of books –10,000 — and also furniture and equipment, from the media center (library) into the dumpsters. We called several citizens, and risking getting cut from glass, rescued 1,000 books out of the dumpster.
PT: What are people doing about this?
LGW: We formed Citizens for Highland Park Public Schools. We had two slow downs, on Woodard Avenue in front of the High School. We call them Slow Down In Motown, Highland Park Style. We shut down traffic for over 20 minutes. We passed out literature to motorists explaining why we’re doing this and who is responsible and gave information on how they can contact the governor. Gov. Snyder’s office in Lansing has been flooded with calls. We also had a march and protest in front of the high school which was very successful. However, five of us received traffic violations for impeding traffic –$150 each — but we are fighting this. We still want to be heard; this was a malicious act of destruction and mismanagement. The Emergency Manager’s response was “It was a mistake. I take full responsibility.” He said he would give away the remaining books to a church or a foundation.
PT: Why do you think this happened?
LGW: It’s a conspiracy to take over the public school system. The Emergency Manager is dictatorial – he can do whatever he wants. We the voters of Michigan voted against public act 72 – the Emergency Manager law. Then the governor turned around and created another public act, which was unconstitutional. It overrode our vote and gave them complete control to do whatever they want without notifying the community. It’s a fascist rule. This is contemptuous. When you deny people the history (as found in books) of who they are, you are trying to keep them repressed and confused. People need their sense of history.
PT: What is the next step?
LGW: We are joining coalitions with the Welfare Rights Organization; Stop the Emergency Manager organization and others. The next step is to be united and strong.