Looting Detroit: The Film Series

Detroit is a really a small town that has been under attack by the far right, like Central Falls, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico. The story in the film series is told by Detroit’s best and brightest. They are lionhearted fighters who are silenced, jailed, made invisible or openly attacked in the mainstream media if they hit a nerve of the greedy pigs who run the town and feast on tax money. The greedy pigs run Detroit using all kinds of tricks which you will see in the film. Every night of the week you can go to a community meeting planning a protest somewhere, while buildings burn down ceaselessly without investigation and children live in relentless poverty.

Detroit has been maligned in  media. For those who have not lived in a Detroit neighborhood or had friends who were Detroiters, we ask you to erase everything you have heard from the racist media in Detroit, which then spreads nationally.

Detroit is the kind of place where a film series like this could be made on virtually no budget – just from a strong social network of activists and community folks. Outside Detroit, a place with few resources, support came from Jan BenDor to make the film and funding from National Nurses United.

We suggest you begin with the introduction, then continue the series in order. All the films are listed in the menu.

It is meaty. We started the film series with the intention of making one short film, but Detroit’s recent history has been so woefully ignored and twisted – and the interviewees were so brilliant we couldn’t condense it. It’s more Guns, Germs and Steel than it is a commercial. Detroit deserves this. The Motor City is an incredible mix of grit, strength and love. We hope that you get some truth about 600,000 people who are lied about daily in the news. If you see any of these things happening in your city, we hope you will follow the instructions in a chant that seeps out of well marched sidewalks in every part of town: “When democracy is under attack, what do we do? STAND UP AND FIGHT BACK.”

Looting Detroit: The Series was created by Jan BenDor and Jean Vortkamp. To contact Jan: jan at bendor.org To contact Jean: jeanvortkamp at yahoo.com


Detroit, once a bastion of municipal jobs with strong unions, good pensions and benefits, has been under a transformation through “elected” officials to create a new kind of city policy. One in which tax money is funneled only to the friends of elected officials. What used to be blatantly illegal is now regular policy in Detroit. Taking city services out from under the direct control of a municipality takes many forms: private companies, nonprofit organizations, foundations, regional authorities, local authorities – all are being done in Detroit. The myth that this is cost effective only benefits the companies that get the contracts. A city that runs on contracts is wide open to vast corruption and unaccountable finances – Detroit is a textbook example as shown in this film.

Film length: 17 minutes


Emergency Management

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder implemented “Emergency Management” (EM) to override the authority of the elected officials in majority African American cities, including Detroit and Flint. This film shows the history of EM, who was involved in constructing the EM law, and how it was used to facilitate the bankruptcy to the detriment of the people of Detroit.

Film length – 32:08 minutes



20% of the world’s fresh water is in the Great Lakes and Detroit has a water treatment plant worth billions that processes that water. Detroit, a majority African American city, has been under attack for decades to privatize this precious resource. This film shows who is trying to privatize it, how the bankruptcy was used to move it toward privatization, and how mass water shut offs and inflated water prices affect impoverished Detroiters.

Film length: 40 minutes

Resources about Detroit and Water



Waiting for the bus in Detroit is often a test of will. The bus system eradicates many Detroiters’ chances for jobs and even hope. What do bus drivers think of the system? Listen to Fred Westbrook Jr., president of Detroit’s bus driver’s union, Amalgamated Transit Union, speak to the deplorable way the bus system is run and how it affects passengers and bus drivers. Appallingly, in the midst of bankruptcy, a 3 mile rail line along property belonging to the wealthiest in Michigan was pushed through using public money. Fred has a lot to say about that…

Film length: 13 minutes



Detroit’s schools’ issues are often portrayed in the media as being run into the ground by Detroiters. Rarely highlighted are the roles of contractors like John Rakolta and school privateers like Betsy DeVos. To them Detroit children have a value…$7,000 each from school funding. As Detroit schools are being dismantled to be chartered and education put on the stock market, Detroiters in the film speak to bond money and corruption on higher levels.

Film length – 25 minutes