The Rev. Michael Andrew Owens said an emergency manager doesn't allow for city residents to participate in the political process. (David Coates/The Detroit News)
Detroit — The Council of Baptist Pastors on Tuesday voiced its opposition to the appointment of an emergency manager for Detroit, calling the move "anti-democratic."
Flanked by more than 50 of his members, council leader the Rev. Michael Andrew Owens said Gov. Rick Snyder's move robs city residents of the opportunity to participate in the political process.
The group says it plans to join with the Detroit Branch NAACP, AFSCME Council 25, the UAW and others to file a lawsuit to block the appointment of an emergency manager.
"We can ill afford to have Detroit be a success story for those hell-bent on our disenfranchisement through a disregard of home rule and the abolishment of voting rights," Owens said during the news conference at the Bethel Baptist Church, East.
Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson also weighed in separately Tuesday, urging mass demonstrations and court action to oppose emergency manager Kevyn Orr's appointment.
The civil rights leader told the Associated Press by telephone Tuesday that the appointment by the state is a "constitutional crisis" because it usurps local control.
Jackson wants the Justice Department to get involved and take action against Michigan's emergency manager law. He plans to meet this week with city elected leaders and clergy.
Snyder appointed Orr, a prominent restructuring expert and Washington, D.C., attorney, as the city's emergency manager last week. Snyder said city leaders don't have a viable plan to turn around a city that has $14.9 billion in long-term liabilities and a $327 million budget deficit.
Orr is set to start his new position on Monday.
Owens said his group doesn't deny there's a state of emergency in Detroit and welcomes assistance from federal and state leaders. But he said the city should have been given more time to fulfill its consent agreement with the state.
"There is undeniably a state of emergency in the city of Detroit," said Owens, whose group includes about 100 pastors. "That (consent agreement) should have been given more time and sincere effort to prove itself a worthy compromise. We will not support a hostile takeover of Detroit by the state."
Owens' group commended the Detroit City Council, which appealed Snyder's decision at a hearing in last week. But the group was critical of Mayor Dave Bing for "surrendering" and standing at the press conference with Snyder and Orr.
"We are severely disappointed the mayor's office did not go all the way to the end and be a champion for the rights for the citizens of Detroit," Owens said. "We thought we had a partner. No plan was going to have the promise of being fulfilled and bringing about a new Detroit if it did not include the mayor's office. We're disappointed he did not join in with the city council to the end in trying to persuade the state there was a viable plan."
Owens added later Detroiters deserve to have their leaders in charge.
"We, the people, have the right to multiple branches of government," Owens said. "We have a right to elected officials being held accountable, and if they mess up it's on us to rise up and say they need to be replaced."
The Associated Press contributed.