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39 arrested at Detroit minimum wage protest

Demonstrators block traffic in Detroit early Tuesday morning.
McConnell Communications Inc
Demonstrators block traffic in Detroit early Tuesday morning.

Detroit police arrested 39 people this morning during a protest outside a McDonald's on Grand River Avenue. 

The protest was part of a national campaign of planned strikes and civil disobedience to fight for a $15 hourly wage and the right to unionize.

According to Commander Elvin Barren of the Detroit Police Department, the protest was peaceful, and about 350 people participated. 

Barren said police warned protesters who were in the street that they would be arrested if they continued to block traffic. He said most moved out of the street, but 39 people remained there.

"They sat in the street, and they formed a line to stop the lanes of traffic from being utilized," said Barren.

Barren said of the 39 arrests, 24 were women and 15 were men, and they were taken to the Detroit Detention Center for processing.

Reverend W. J Rideout III is an activist and spokesman for D 15, a coalition of low-wage workers and their supporters who want a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union. 

Rideout said there were at least 1,000 protesters at the Detroit demonstration this morning, three times more than the police estimate. He said all kinds of low-wage workers participated including fast food, health care, home care, and airport workers.

"We're trying to get more than just a wage. We're trying to get a liveable wage," said Rideout. "You cannot live off the current wage that is being given to the workers."

"This fight is a national movement," said Rideout. "And we're going to continue to move forward to our goals until we get them."

Rideout said two other protests were planned in Michigan today, one around 6 a.m. in Flint and another at 5 p.m. in Detroit. There were no arrests at the Flint demonstration, according to the Flint Township Police Department.

A spokesperson for D 15 said in a written statement: "The strikes and protests in Michigan are part of a nationwide day of disruption that includes workers walking off their jobs in 340 cities from coast to coast, and as the effort for higher wages marks its four-year anniversary."