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Royal Oak protesters rally to 'save the USPS from Trump'

The Detroit News

Royal Oak — Protesters rallied outside the U.S. Postal Office center Saturday demanding support for mail carriers following cutbacks by the White House administration this week.

More than 100 protesters chanted "lock him up" outside the center on Second Street near downtown Royal Oak and called on the president's new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to resign.

The actions come in response to President Donald Trump and DeJoy's "efforts to slow down mail," they said, by removing mail sorting machines, and warning states not to count on the post office during the November election.

Postal service supporters rally outside the Royal Oak Post Office on Saturday, August 22, 2020.

"There's more at stake here than our democracy, it's our livelihood," said Sharlan Douglas, Royal Oak city commissioner. "The postal service is not a business, it's an essential service. There are people who say the post office should pay for itself. Well, does the federal highway administration pay for itself? No, does the U.S. Navy pay for itself, no? They are essential to our democracy."

The removal of at least eight mail sorting machines in Detroit, Pontiac and Grand Rapids facilities is causing the loss of sorting more than 270,000 pieces of mail per hour, according to union officials from around the state. The planned removal of another seven machines in West Michigan and Pontiac would reduce mail sorting capability by another 200,000 or more pieces of mail per hour, union officials said. 

Bruce Fealk of Rochester Hills wears his President Trump head during a rally outside Royal Oak Post Office on Saturday, August 22, 2020.

The warnings came as a national controversy ignited over funding for the Postal Service and fears President Donald Trump is seeking to hobble the agency's ability to process what is likely to be a huge volume of mail-in ballots. Trump has publicly voiced concerns about mail-in voting this fall as he seeks reelection, and Democrats have responded with legislation and lawsuits in a bid to blunt Postal Service cuts.

"Donald Trump thinks the post office can't handle 150 million mail-in ballots in November, I got a red-hot news flash for ya. Last year, the USPS handled 2.5 billion pieces of first-class mail," Douglas said. "Ask any mail carrier what they think and they'll say, 'well it may be an election, but it's no Christmas.'"

The House is convening for a rare Saturday session to address mail delivery disruptions, poised to pass legislation that would reverse recent changes in U.S. Postal Service operations and send $25 billion in emergency funds to shore up the agency ahead of the November election.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Postal Service will be “election central” as she recalled lawmakers to Washington in a highly unusual election year as millions of Americans are expected to opt for mail-in ballots to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.

A woman carries an oversized letter during a rally in support of the United States Postal Service outside Royal Oak’s main Post office on Saturday, August 22, 2020.

The protesters held a socially-distanced rally during the pandemic, many of whom traveled from different cities to show their support.

Charles Thomas spent six years in the military and when he returned to Southfield, he joined the USPS as a letter carrier. He spent 30 years with the sorting centers before retiring in 2013, a move that was hard to do, he said.

"We all believe in equal justice under the law and 'we the people.' It has nothing to do with if you’re Republican or Democrat, the U.S. Post Office serves all of the people,” said Thomas, 60.  “The post office is one of the countries biggest employers with 630,000 employees so when anyone messes with the post office, that’s 630,000 families and there better be an uproar from every citizen they serve."

Similar protests labeled "Return To Sender" occurred at local post offices across the country Saturday organized by MoveOn, a progressive public-policy advocacy group.

“From the most remote village in the Alaskan tundra to the tiniest island in the Everglades, there’s one connection we’ve always depended on: the mail," said Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn. “The mail shapes our lives and our livelihoods. It’s how millions get our medicines, send holiday greetings, and receive the resources we depend on. And, in this pandemic, the mail is how millions of us will deliver our democracy. We reject these attacks on the USPS. We demand full restoration of machines and personnel plus full funding for the post office. We will fight until every vote is counted."

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_