protests

Rowan Renstrom-Richards

More than 200 students and faculty gathered on University of Michigan's campus yesterday for a "die-in protest". 

Those participating lay down on the Diag for 45 minutes, in protest of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York. The 45 minutes was symbolic for the four-and-a-half hours that Michael Brown's body remained on the street after his death.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Black Friday is attracting shoppers and protesters.

Picketers stood outside more than a dozen Michigan Wal-Mart stores this morning.

Marilyn Coulter is with the Coalition of Labor Union Women.    She says this is “RED Friday” for minimum wage workers in Michigan.

“Because they’re in the red because they’re working and they are not getting paid enough money to be able to live and feed their families,” says Coulter. 

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

This week, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss what to expect from the Legislature’s lame duck session, repercussions from Ferguson, and a fund to help Detroit pensioners.


Gerri Trager / Flickr

The nonprofit group that manages Detroit's riverfront walkway says its restrictions on organized activities including protests are reasonable.

The Detroit River Front Conservancy on Thursday released a statement after the American Civil Liberties Union earlier this week said the group was violating the First Amendment by preventing people from holding protests. The conservancy says that's not the case.

The ACLU said a security guard ordered a small group of people taking part in an anti-war march along the Detroit River Walk last summer to stop. The ACLU said that that violated the free speech rights of the group Women in Black, and it asked the conservancy to change its policy.

Women in Black said it wants to march at the river Saturday afternoon. The conservancy said Thursday it welcomes the planned march.

The city of Birmingham has settled a federal lawsuit by adopting a new free speech policy.

The Michigan ACLU sued the city after animal rights protesters were arrested last year.

Protesters with the Southwest Michigan Animal Rights Team (SMART) were holding signs and passing out literature outside a Birmingham fur store in December 2012.

Police told the protesters they had to “keep moving” in order to be there. When one protester questioned the officers, she was arrested and charged with loitering.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Safety drills in schools are being ignored

Under a proposal in Lansing, schools would be forced to report when and how emergency safety drills are conducted. As Michigan Public Radio’s Jake Neher reports, state police officials say too many schools are ignoring laws meant to ensure school safety. The reports would have to be posted on schools’ web sites whenever they conduct a safety drill.

Tracking by cell phone GPS could become a felony

Another piece of legislation in Lansing would make it a felony for police officers to track someone by GPS in their cell phone without a warrant. The US Supreme Court ruled last year that the practice is unconstitutional. Democratic state Representative Jeff Irwin says the legislation is necessary to make sure law enforcement agencies are held accountable for such actions.

Fast food workers protesting in Detroit and Flint

Workers at some fast food chains in Detroit and Flint are expected to walk off the job as part of a protest for higher wages today. They want to be paid fifteen dollars an hour. Michigan’s current minimum wage is $7.40. The strike is expected to affect some McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy’s and other fast food restaurants.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Buena Vista and Inkster school districts to be dissolved

The state is moving ahead to dissolve the Inkster and Buena Vista school districts. Both districts failed to meet a deadline yesterday to prove they could keep their doors open next school year. Now state officials say it could be a matter of days before the districts are dissolved, Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher reports.

Protesters arrested at pipeline worksite

Enbridge energy is building a 285 mile pipeline across Michigan that will carry tar sands oil. The pipeline will replace the one that ruptured three years ago. Yesterday, protesters chained themselves to heavy equipment at a worksite southeast of Lansing. They say the new pipeline will present an environmental threat. Twelve people were arrested at a protest yesterday, Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports.

Will Detroit retirees see pension cuts?

A federal bankruptcy court will now be the scene for some huge decisions about the future of Detroit which filed for Chapter Nine protection last week. One of the key issues is whether retirees will see their benefits cut. Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett has more.

Postal workers protest end to Saturday service

Mar 24, 2013
usps.com

Hundreds of postal workers who oppose plans to cut home delivery from six days to five have picketed outside U.S. Postal Service offices in Michigan.

The Detroit News says about 600 people marched in protest Sunday at a post office in suburban Southfield.

MLive.com says about 100 postal workers from around the state demonstrated Sunday in Grand Rapids. They carried signs and waved at passing cars.

The signs included the messages "Save America's Postal Service" and "5-Day Is the Wrong Way to Save the Postal Service."

Students took to the streets of Battle Creek this morning to protest recent depictions of violence surrounding Battle Creek Central.
battlecreekcvb / flickr

A student-led march in downtown Battle Creek this morning protested recent violence and attempts to blame the violence on Battle Creek Central High School.

Over 2,000 marchers from across Calhoun County took to the streets in support of Battle Creek Central.

From the Battle Creek Enquirer:

Michigan State Capitol Building
Nikopoley / Wikimedia Commons

Several rallies at the state Capitol were timed to coincide with the Legislature’s only session day this month.

The largest was a group of about 150 abortion rights advocates protesting a package of bills before the state Senate.

The bills call for strict regulations on abortion providers.

One of the speakers was Renee Chelian. She works for a group of family planning clinics in metro Detroit. Chelian says protests have slowed down the bills after they cleared the state House last month.

user Bubba73 / wikimedia commons

DETROIT (AP) - About two dozen people chanting "pay your fair share" were escorted from the General Electric Co. shareholder meeting in Detroit's Renaissance Center as more than 1,000 others picketed outside the downtown building.

Organizers said Wednesday morning's protest was part of the "99 percent" movement and a call for GE and others in corporate America to pay a fair share in taxes.

The crowd later marched onto nearby Jefferson Avenue, where traffic was temporarily blocked. Detroit police, including some on horseback, monitored the demonstration. No arrests were reported.

GE spokesman Gary Sheffer has said GE's 2011 U.S. income tax rate of 25 percent has been paid.

Laura Weber / Michigan Public Radio Network

About a thousand protesters marched on Governor Rick Snyder’s residential neighborhood in Ann Arbor yesterday evening. They marched to ask Governor Snyder to repeal the state’s controversial emergency manager law.

The rally started at on the eastern edge of Ann Arbor, and about a mile-and-a-half from Governor Snyder’s house. Protesters marched, chanted and sang, hoisted signs and lit candles. They wound in a long line through the tree-lined neighborhood of gently rolling hills spotted with the occasional large house. They were greeted outside of Snyder’s gated community by the governor’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore.

Reverend Charles Williams II of Detroit’s King Solomon Baptist Church told Muchmore to tell the governor that the law negates the will of voters in struggling communities.

“And we need democracy here, in Detroit, Benton Harbor, Inkster, Ecorse and Flint.”

“Will do.”

“Thank you.”

“We’ll do that. Thank you very much.”

Muchmore says the governor wants to work with people living in financially strained communities, but that the cities must also be protected from insolvency.

Flickr/theqspeaks

The Reverend Al Sharpton and others say they plan a demonstration Monday outside the home of Governor Rick
Snyder to protest a law that makes it easier for Michigan to take over financially struggling communities and school districts.

Organizers say the protest will happen on Martin Luther King Day at Snyder's home in Washtenaw County's Superior Township, near Ann Arbor.

Sharpton and other ministers and civil rights activists will participate. Organizers say the law seems to target black communities. Snyder has said the law isn't racially motivated.

Emergency managers are in place in Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Flint and Detroit schools. Detroit's finances are under a review that could bring the city under state financial control as well.

user k1ds3ns4t10n / Flickr

The permit allowing Occupy Detroit protestors to camp in Grand Circus Park expired Monday but city officials granted a one-week extension, allowing protestors more time to clean up and relocate to another venue.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Some council members likened the peaceful Occupy Detroit to the civil rights movement aimed at extending rights to disenfranchised black people.

"All of us sit here because some people fought, because some people occupied, because some people demonstrated," Councilman Kwame Kenyatta said. "They did it because it was the right thing to do."

Saying the Occupy Detroit protesters have been peaceful and cooperative, Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said he was not opposed to the one-week extension.

Yesterday, Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported that there seemed to be little animosity amongst protestors regarding an eventual move:

Occupy Detroit participants says an extension will benefit everyone.

“[It’s] so we can maintain our peaceful protest within Grand Circus Park, and leave within a reasonable amount of time," says activist Zachary Steve. "We'll be able to clean up the park, and make sure to maintain a good relationship with the community."

Occupy Detroit says it plans to move its encampment to another, privately-owned location in the city for the winter months.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A minister faces charges of disturbing the peace for protesting Holland City Council’s decision against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination laws. The proposed changes would have given homosexual and transgender persons protection from discrimination by employers and landlords. City Council voted 5 to 4 in June 2011 against moving to adopt the local ordinance.

“It’s not about me. It’s not about (city council),” Reverend Bill Freeman Said, “It’s about people who are being discriminated against in the City of Holland just because of who they are and I don’t think that’s right.”

Freeman and others have attended every city council meeting since the decision to ask city council to change their minds. Earlier this month some city council members told the group they wouldn’t change their minds, adding that the group should change their tactics.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

People inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” protests in New York showed up at a Democratic fundraiser hosted by Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday evening.

Biden made stops in Flint and Grand Rapids to promote President Obama’s American Jobs Act before switching to campaign mode.

At least 50 protesters marched on the sidewalk outside the $500 per dinner private event. The event raised money for the 2012 presidential election.

“We can get Mr. Biden’s attention,” Richard Ertl said. He’s wearing a sticker on the back of his head that reads “we are the 99%”. “We can get them to listen to us and know that we’re starting to gel up and become cohesive as a people,” Ertl said.

Ertl and other say they’re not protesting Biden but want to send a message. He says protestors want politicians to listen to one another and work together to solve the nation’s financial problems. 

“Occupy Grand Rapids" held its first big meeting over the weekend. They’re now camping out in a church parking lot (private property) downtown after spending several days in a public park near the Grand River.

He says they meet for general assemblies everyday at noon and 6 p.m.

Dane Hillard / wikimedia commons

Update 5:37 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Rina Miller is at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn and phoned in the above reports.

On their live blog, the Free Press reports that "several hundred people have gathered outside the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn for a Terry Jones counterrally, listening to speakers who have pleaded for peace and understanding.

Crowd members are carrying signs that say, 'We are Peace,' 'We Are Islam," and 'Hope, not Hurt.'"

Update: 4:32 p.m.

The Detroit Free Press reports that members of assorted police departments have gathered at the site of the planned counter-protest outside of the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn. The Freep reports they have riot gear "on hand visible inside several vans, including helmets and sticks."

From the Freep:

Emergency crews from more than a half-dozen agencies are gathered outside the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.

They are on guard for a scheduled 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. counter-rally organized by Detroit-area religious leaders in response to a Florida pastor’s desire to hold his own rally outside Dearborn’s Islamic Center of America, one of the nation’s largest mosques.

2:40 p.m.

Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who organized a Quran burning last month, plans to hold his anti-Muslim rally tonight at 5 p.m. at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn regardless of the outcome of this afternoon's trial.

He said during the trial that he knows of 5 people from his church who will be there.

Prosecutors say more than 10,000 people could show up to counter protest his rally and they fear violence could erupt.

They liken Jones' intent to hold an anti-Muslim rally outside one of the largest mosques in the United States  to shouting "fire" in a crowded theater.

A counter-rally has been planned at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn 3 miles away from the mosque.

It's scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Rina Miller will attend the rallies and file updates for us.

K. Sawyer / Flickr

Controversy continues to swirl around collective bargaining rights--and the protests that recent legislation has sparked--in Michigan and Wisconsin.

At issue now is a number of Freedom of Information Act requests done by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The requests have been made for information on faculty at Wayne State, Michigan State, and the University of Michigan.

Some critics are claiming that the FOIA requests are being used to intimidate college professors from participating in pro-labor protests.

There was another protest today at the state Capitol – the third rally this week.  Hundreds of Lansing high school students walked out of class to march on the Capitol. 

Some of the students sunned themselves on the Capitol steps, took pictures, laughed, and chatted on their phones, while others stood by the road and waved signs. They called out to passing drivers to honk if they opposed budget cuts called for by Governor Rick Snyder.

Joe Gratz / Flickr

A judge has temporarily blocked Wisconsin's controversial new law affecting collective bargaining rights in the state. Here the update from the New York Times:

A judge issued a temporary restraining order on Friday that prevents Wisconsin’s new law cutting collective bargaining rights for public workers from taking effect, at least for now.

The decision, issued by Judge Maryann Sumi of the Dane County Circuit Court, temporarily bars Wisconsin’s secretary of state from publishing the controversial law, one of the procedural requirements for it to come into effect in the state.

Publication had been expected late next week, but Judge Sumi’s ruling delays that until at least March 29, when she plans to hold a full hearing on a lawsuit that questions the validity of the collective bargaining law based on the speedy manner in which it was carried out earlier this month.

An appeal is possible even before then.

Opponents of the measure said they hoped the decision was but the first of many that would ultimately undo legislation that has split the state and drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators to the state capital over a matter of many weeks.

Supporters of the measure, however, said the judge’s decision was merely a blip, certain to be overturned as various legal efforts make their way fully through the court system.

Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker has said that the law will shield taxpayers and improve Wisconsin's business climate.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

(photo by Laura Weber/MPRN)

UPDATE:  A growing number of angry labor-movement supporters are showing up at the state Capitol to protest Republican proposals to tax pensions and limit union control.  A drum circle played on the Capitol lawn, surrounded by thousands of protesters with signs, a 15-foot inflated eagle, and flapping American and U-A-W flags.

There were big, hulking men in hardhats, businesspeople in suits, and young parents pushing strollers.   

Rick Pluta / Michigan Public Radio Network

Hundreds of senior citizens gathered in front of the state Capitol today to protest Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to tax pensions.

Michigan is one of four states that does not collect an income on pensions. Snyder’s proposal would change that.

Connie Cole Burland, a retired Battle Creek school teacher, says it’s not fair to ask her to pay more if Snyder follows through on his plan to cut taxes for most businesses.

 "We gave them 40-plus years of service. We had a deal when we retired, and this is tax hike. You can call it whatever you want, but this is a tax hike. We had a deal."

Governor Snyder says it’s reasonable to ask retirees with good pensions to pay the income tax when younger people with smaller incomes have to pay it.

He says it is part of the “shared sacrifice” necessary to fix Michigan’s budget troubles.

Some Republican lawmakers are looking for an alternative to taxing pensions.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Update 2:31 p.m.:

A spokesperson from the Governor’s office responded via email with the following:

"The proposed budget and tax plan is based on fairness and preserving core safety net services – while improving and strengthening our economy so ALL can prosper and benefit."

2:06 p.m.:

A handful of people gathered in Ann Arbor on Monday to speak against Governor Snyder’s proposed budget for an event organized by Progress Michigan, a progressive organization. The speakers included union representatives, city officials, and individuals.

Lois Richardson is Mayor Pro-Tem of Ypsilanti and voiced criticism of the budget. She says cuts to revenue sharing and historic tax credits will devastate Ypsilanti and other cities. Richardson says the changes will affect everyone in the state of Michigan, not just those who relied directly on the funding.

Brit Satchwell is the President of the Ann Arbor teacher’s union. He says students will feel the cuts the most:

“I’m a sixth grade math teacher and I’m here to tell you, the kids don’t get a makeover year. You don’t get to do sixth grade again because the adults messed it up.”

Satchwell also said school districts like Ann Arbor have already been cutting their budgets for the past few years.

This was one of several events held across the state in preparation for a protest scheduled for Wednesday at the Capitol.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio News

Sheldon Dick / Farm Security Administration

Are the Wisconsin protests becoming public employees’ equivalent of the Sit Down Strike in Flint, Michigan?

Professor Steven Ashby at the University of Illinois made the comparison Wednesday on Changing Gears’ partner station WBEZ.

Speaking with Alison Cuddy, the host of 848, Professor Ashby said the Wisconsin protests may be seen as historically significant as the events at General Motors in 1936 and 1937.

It’s an interesting analogy, because the sit down strike resonates with labor historians as the moment that the fledgling United Automobile Workers took root at the Detroit car companies.

And, while Flint got the most attention for the sit down strike there, the protests actually spread from Atlanta to Kansas City and Cleveland, just as the protests in Wisconsin have resulted in others across the Great Lakes states.

In the same way that Flint helped the UAW, Professor Ashby argues that the protests in Madison have given public — and private sector — unions a rallying point. Whether they can lead to preserving or growing union membership remains to be seen, however.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to know more about what went on in Flint, the Detroit News has a compendium of the strike here. And you can hear voices of some of the sit down strikers here.

Do you remember the sit down strike, or do you have relatives who took part? We’d love to hear your memories or any stories they’ve handed down.

Matthileo / Flickr

Update 1:44 p.m.

The Detroit News reports the Michigan Senate is expected to pass the Emergency Financial Manager bill despite the protests taking place in the capitol. From the Detroit News:

A bill to give broad authority to emergency financial managers to fix a governing body's finances is expected to pass in the Senate on Wednesday despite boisterous union protests that punctuated today's session.

Senate Republicans voted down more than 20 Democratic amendments as more than 1,000 union members chanted "Kill the Bill" outside the Senate chamber. Their chants were audible as the chamber debated the bill, as were the catcalls of protesters crammed into the gallery above the Senate floor.

The union members protesting the bill say it would make emergency financial managers too powerful, "allowing them to toss out union contracts, overrule elected officials and dissolve city councils and school boards."

10:59 a.m.

Protesters have arrived at the state Capitol to show their opposition to a measure that would give more power to Emergency Financial Managers. Laura Weber sent this report from Lansing:

The state Capitol is jammed this morning with a raucous group of union members and supporters who are opposed to a proposal to grant more power to Emergency Financial Managers. Hundreds of protesters are chanting "kill the bill" loudly outside of the Michigan Senate chamber as lawmakers prepare to vote on the controversial measure.

Still hundreds more are on the Capitol lawn rallying against the emergency manager bills. The package of bills would strip unions of collective bargaining rights, and dissolve union contracts, if an emergency manager was put in place to take over the finances of a struggling city, township, or school district.

The Associated Press reports there are around 1,000 people demonstrating:

...protesters are at the Capitol objecting to bills that would give broad new powers to emergency financial managers appointed by the state to run struggling cities and schools.

The Senate plans to vote on the measures Tuesday. The House passed the bills two weeks ago.

Groups opposed to legislation they consider anti-union are holding the morning rally and also are chanting inside the Capitol.

Local officials warned during a Monday news conference that the financial manager measures would take away voters' rights by removing the authority of elected school board members, mayors and council members.

Workers warn that the bills could allow financial managers to terminate union contracts.

Supporters of the legislation say it would lead to earlier intervention in financially troubled communities and schools, avoiding bigger crises.

Roel Wijnants / Flickr

NPR is reporting that pro-Gaddafi forces are maintaining control of Tripoli as protests and violence continues:

"Thousands of people were fleeing Libya on Wednesday as forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi reportedly continued a crackdown on protesters in the capital. Rogue elements of the police and army aligned with the anti-government opposition appeared to be in firm control of parts of the east."

Mahmoud Saber / Flickr

Students from Michigan universities are returning to the United States from Egypt after unrest in that country.

Zenit Chughtai attends Michigan State University and was studying in Alexandria through The Language Flagship program. She says she noticed a difference in the way Egyptians treated foreigners after the protests began:

“I was with a bunch of American students when we encountered a group and, they didn’t – we didn’t get the normal reaction the usually got, a reaction like, "Oh you’re some tourist," they were like – "Come, run with us, join us, protest with us."”

Universities across the state have canceled their study abroad programs in Egypt and have been coordinating with the State department to bring students back to the U.S.

Chugtai returned to the United States only a few days after the protests but she said many other students in her program flew back yesterday. They are currently in Washington D.C., waiting to learn more about how they'll continue their studies.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio Newsroom

No Smoking sign
user capl@washjeff.edu / creative commons

We reported last week that some 400 Michigan bar owners planned to ignore the state's smoking ban and allow patrons to light up on New Year's Eve.

Steve Mace is with the Protect Private Property Rights Movement in Michigan, the group that organized the protest. He issued a press release today with an update on how the protest went:

"There were an estimated 700 bars that took back their property right on New Years Eve. Exceeding all expectations. While confirmations continue to come in, we are confident this number will grow significantly. Several bar owners have reported already receiving calls from county health departments. Bar owners remain hopeful that the pro-ban lobby and the minority that support them, did in fact flood the county and district health departments with complaints. This will assist to provide conclusive evidence that this ban is in fact enforced 45 separate ways statewide. "