By Kate Mudgett
Lansing Star staff writer
For the past few days business, has not been as usual in Lansing.
Thousands gathered Tuesday and Wednesday to protest Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal and the recently passed Emergency Financial Manager Act.Photos by Kate Mudgett
While more than a thousand gathered on Tuesday, Wednesday’s union-sponsored rally drew a crowd estimated around 3,000 people. Unions representing groups from all over the state of Michigan — squinting in the bright sunshine, signs in hand — stood side by side on the muddy Capitol lawn, as temperatures reached close to 50 degrees.
“I am really energized by the amount of people who came out, not just in Michigan but across this country; Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Iowa,” UAW President Bob King said. “Working people are angry, they are tired of paying all the taxes, sending their kids to war, and then being unfairly treated here in America.”
Speakers who took the podium on the Capitol steps included; UAW President Bob King, Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, small-business owners, caregivers, educators and several more addressed the responsive crowd, who often broke into chants and cheers.
“Today is not simply a day to blow off steam, and we’re going to return to business as usual. The protests are going to get bigger, the protesters are going to get louder, and protests are going to get longer. And on the national day of protest on April 13, we are going to shut this country down,” said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit branch of NAACP, in his speech.
Participants chanted, “This is what democracy looks like!” and “Our House!” as they discarded their signs and filed into the Capitol building. Chanting, dancing and stomping echoed through the building as hundreds filled the Capitol rotunda and its balconies, just a few hundred feet from the guarded doors of Michigan’s legislative chambers, where lawmakers were in session.
“We, in Detroit, are on the first lines; we will have our rights cut tomorrow,” said Detroit school teacher Diane Porter, who was brought to tears as she discussed the cuts schools are already facing and the impact this bill will have on Detroit. “We just won’t have anything left to give.”
The Emergency Financial Manager Act
Although Snyder’s budget was the main topic at the rally, the spotlight also fell on six bills passed by the Michigan Legislature, dealing with emergency financial managers. While protesters rallied in Lansing, the bills were signed into law by Snyder in Ann Arbor.
In a press release about the new legislation, Snyder said, “The goal is to allow the state to intervene at an earlier stage so that the need for an emergency manager can be avoided altogether. If, however, an emergency manager is needed, then they need the tools to properly address these challenges.”
Many critics of the bill said that the bills give too much power to the appointed managers, without a strict guide or clear criteria for those who could hold the position. There are concerns that managers will have the ability to void contracts with union groups and other agencies.
“What’s really disturbing is the loss of freedoms and the promises that dissipate when someone, who is unelected, can come in and take over. It just doesn’t sit right with our American way,” said Edwin Brzys, a rally participant.
“It feels as though we lost our legislative branch of government,” Porter said. “After the year we have had already, it just feels like they want the system to break.”
While the bill has already been signed, many in the rally’s crowd vowed to return to the Capitol until they felt their voices were heard.
Another union-sponsored rally is being planned for March 25.