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What Ever Happened To

What Ever Happened To image What Ever Happened To image
Parent Issue
Day
22
Month
February
Year
1974
OCR Text

In the spring of 1972, the Human Rights Party of Ann Arbor won two unexpcctedly smashing victories in the lst and 2nd wards of the city A united front of students, freeks, blacks, gay people and disenchanted Democrats mobilized the newly passed 18-21 year old and student vote to elect HRP's Nancy Wechsler and Jerry DeGrieck to City Council. Their first year in office on a HRP-Democratic dominated council was marked with the passage of vital legislation like the, anti-discrimination ordinances, the S5 marijuana law and with a series of public hearings which for the first time opened the City Council up to the voices of the people. In a city dominated by Republicans for 20 years, HRP's victory injected life into a stagnant Council chamber. Now, two years later, Nancy's and Jerry's terms are over. Jerry is leaving town and Nancy is withdrawing to "work within the HRP". The HRP has not won an election in two years. The Republicans now domínate City Council, elected because HRP and the Democrats split the vote in the 1973 city elections. Their year of domination has been pockmarked with reactionary measures like the repeal of the S5 marijuana law, increased repression of young, gay and black people. the illegal cancellation of money for a People's Ballroom and the approval of a McDonalds in the heart of Ann Arbor. In 1973 the city benefited from the revenue sharing money allocated by the HRP-Democratic Council before its mise. The Republicans have already announced that no tunding will be available for child care, alternative medical care 'or any other human service program in 1974. But two years ago this April saw an unprecendented coalition of Ann Arbor's most progressive people. Student radicáis, the RainbowPeople's Party, left leaning Democrats and the masses of students and young people united as never before under the banner of the HRP. The issues were community control and political power for poor, oppressed and powerless people. So we ask, What did happen to the HRP, the party we had thought would slowly build a base of power, first in Ann Arbor, then in Washtenaw County and then in the state of Michigan? Not only did every single HRP candidate lose in last year's City Council elections, but they split the progressive vote in the 4th ward and mayor's race, electing a rabid Republican majority. This year's HRP candidates are the same people who believed so strongly in 1973 that the HRP had to run to win in all five wards, even at the risk of electing Republican domination. Now, as we streak into spring, 1974, the HRP is even more isolated than ever, putting all its weight behind two popular ballot proposals to once again créate excitement and interest in its candidates. Ironically, these ballot proposals might not be necessary if the HRP had not split the vote last year. ORIGINS OF HRP The Human Rights Party is the offspring of the Radical Independent Party, a mere handful of University of Michigan radicáis started in 1970. They thought the electoral process would provide an excellent platform for radical, socialist education and they weren't concerned so much about winning any offices as keeping their politics "pure". They unilaterally despised all Democrats and Republicans. Not yet on the ballot, R.I.R ran write in campaigns for Jerry DeGrieck in the 2nd ward and Doug Cornell for mayor. Both were students at the U of M. 1971 was the year of the infamous Garrís campaign for mayor. Ultra-reactionary Jack Garris vowed to run the hippies and radicáis out of Ann Arbor. It looked like it would be a very close race between him and liberal U of M law professor Robert Harris, the Democrat. Realizing that Garris's election would mean two years of harrassment and ordeal for Ann Arbor's poor black, white and freek communities, the Ann Arbor Tribal Council, issued a statement in support of Harris. Under the circumstances, Tribal Council thought Harris was the best candidate, since RJP's Doug Cornell could not win and rule by Garris would be a nightmare. Harris did finally win the race by quite a margin, but the RIP people resented Tribal Council's lack of support. However, the next year (1972) RIP was in a different position. It had energetically helped organize a petition 1-.j . j j 1 . a a . 't Y T T T . 4 anve to get me statewide HKF on the ballot and had taken on the name "Human Rights Party '. of Ann Arbor". The 18 year oldvote had finally become a reality and for the ñrst time students could vote in A2 instead of in their rent's town. This potentially gave legions of ♦, students. young ♦. people and black people political control, over the lst and 2nd wards. Under this new set of conditions the HRP went about forging political alliances. Among others, they approached the Rainbow People's Party. The two formed a coalition, planning to work together to win one or two council seats in 1972 and to build a base of strength locally. The plan was to elect one or two HRP candidates to council and work toward electing a sheriff, countyprosecutor and county com-, missioners in the fall. That spring the HRP nominated Jerry DeGrieck in the first ward, Nancy Wechsler in the second, Genie Plamondon (of the RPP) in the 3rd ward, David Black in the 4th and Nancy Romer Burghardt in the 5th. All of the candidates ran as if to win. No possible Republican domination of City Council loomed that year. Kicked off with a massive voter registration drive, the campaign featured door to door and dorm registration and a series of rock & roll events. The issues were community control of pólice, housing, childcare and education. Human needs were stressed rather than those of business, industry or local landlords. The HRP said it was different from the Democrats because it would champion the interests of the poor and powerless, something the Dems had rarely done up to that time HRP's FIRST VICTORIES People seemed to believe in the HRP, looking to it for a way to channel all the frustation they feit from being forced to live with little say over their lives. They believed there was a better way to run the affairs of the city and that they could help to determine it. Droves turned out for election day jamming the polls as the HRP shuttle service organized dozens of cars marked with colorful placards to ferry its voters to their voting places. Radio commercials ran on every station that reached young people in Ann Arbor and Detroit área and fantastic media coverage sealed the victory. The polls closed and the HRP storefront office on North Thayer St. erupted in celebration after incredible victories in the lst and 2nd wards while the Republicans morosely downed manhattans at Webers threatening to move out of town. The HRP became the holders of the swing votes on cil. The Democrats could not pass any legislation without Nancy's and Jerry's vote so the entire body took a more progressive stance as public hearings and council discussions became a political forum for humanist and socialist ideas. The Republicans, who had controlled the city for 20 years before Harris became Mayor, spent a miserable year, unable to stop the passage of HRP-Dem sponsored legislation. Council became a public megaphone, discussing issues like the Vietnam war, draft evasion, amnesty and the rights of blacks, women and gay people. The very people the Republicans would have liked to see eliminated sat as their peers on council. Yet ins-tead of building on this newly won power base, the HRP slowly disintegrated as a potent political force in the city over the next two years. The summer after the election was a slow one for the party. Many student activists left town because school was out. Many of the people who were year round residents of Ann Arbor and who could have provided a stable consistent base for it. among them the RPP, turned to their own efforts. The HRP'sreduced activity exploded into controversy at the August convention to set the it's fall campaign policy and nomínate its candidates for County and State offices. The problem was a basic disagreement over the future course of HRP and its tactical choices. The college-radical spawned members of the HRP thought the party should mainly work at distinguishing itself from the Democratie party by emphasizing its own internal party structure, even over concrete local issues. In a year marked by surging mass movement to support George McGovern, the HRP academies staunchly opposed him, preferring instead Benjamin Spock of the People's Party. They thought that supporting the "Corcontinued on page 8 1972 1973