Michigan: Rowdy protests inside capitol building end in 11 arrests

Lansing— Eleven protesters were handcuffed and arrested inside the state Capitol on Wednesday, capping a day of noisy demonstrations against Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget and bills in the Legislature opponents say are anti-union.

Five linked arms and were seated on the glass floor of the rotunda challenging State Police to arrest them, which they did. There were more demonstrators outside the building, pounding on the doors hoping to get inside.

All 11 arrested will be charged with misdemeanor trespassing, according to State Police Capt. Gary Nix. One person additionally faces felony charges for allegedly breaking into the Capitol through a bathroom window and allegedly assaulting a police officer.

A few of the protesters inside the Capitol after it closed scuffled with police when they charged a door to try to let in more protesters.

The arrests capped a day when at least 3,000 demonstrators flooded the state Capitol and its grounds for the biggest and rowdiest protest yet against the governor’s budget proposal, his plan to tax pensions and efforts to weaken union bargaining rights.

Earlier in the day, Snyder said he respects the rights of demonstrators but discouraged them from trying to camp out overnight in the seat of state government.

“Staying over in the Capitol isn’t the best way to make your point,” Snyder told reporters after an event in Lansing.

“We hope people handle this in a respectful and proper way.”

Snyder’s budget includes a $1.8 billion business tax cut, sharp cuts to spending on education and local government, and taxes for pensioners.

The demonstrations mirror those in other states recently, most notably Wisconsin, where round-the-clock protests tried to derail a bill that would strip collective bargaining rights from some public employee unions. The legislation eventually passed.

Union protesters, police, firefighters, teachers, nurses and seniors protested outside and crammed along the atrium railings inside, thundering: “It’s our house! It’s our house!” The AFL-CIO organized the rally.

“It’s the Republican reverse Robin Hood — steal from the poor and the working class and give it to the rich and wealthy,” United Auto Workers President Bob King shouted from a loudspeaker on the Capitol steps, prompting a roar from the crowd.

Demonstrators chanted “We are democracy!” and “It’s not right!” and held protest signs, some saying “Recall Rick!” An impromptu bongo corps and band led protesters in patriotic songs, and an enormous inflated eagle swayed in the wind.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer blasted Republicans, and with House Minority Leader Richard Hammel announced they will introduce an amendment to the state Constitution to protect collective bargaining rights.

“We didn’t start this fight, but we sure don’t plan to lose it, do we?” Whitmer yelled. “No!” roared the crowd.

A constitutional amendment can be adopted by a two-thirds super majority vote of the state House and Senate. If not passed in the Legislature, citizens could petition for the amendment question to be placed on the general election ballot.

Union members are upset about a bill passed by the Legislature this week that will grant broad powers to emergency financial managers to toss out union contracts and dissolve elected governing bodies. Snyder signed the six bills into law Wednesday.

The Rev. Wendell Anthony, pastor of Detroit’s Fellowship Baptist Church and president of the Detroit NAACP, railed against the measure, saying “There is a need for an emergency financial manager, but the emergency is in Lansing, and the people need to be doing the managing.”

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore earlier this week put out a general call to Michiganians to join in Wednesday’s rally. Moore’s company filmed the event.

Tom and Ruth Mutchler of Sterling Heights were among the protesters. They’re upset about Snyder’s plans to cut funding for local communities.

“The governor’s supposed to be the guy that believes in good police services, good fire services, good teachers — and this guy has come to pillage public services for the sake of the big corporations,” Tom Mutchler said. “Shame, shame on the governor.”

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110317/POLITICS02/103170416/Rowdy-Capitol-protest-ends-with-11-arrests#ixzz1GrrouKrK

One Response

  1. Just a few updates.

    There were actually 13 people arrested, although most mainstream media is saying either 11 or 14.

    There were 11 arrested from inside the capitol building and two more were arrested outside.

    A friend of mine was one of the two arrested outside. He was walking with the protesters that were trying to block the van full of those arrested from inside and saw some cops using ‘excessive force’ against a man on the ground. He walked up to one of the officers and attempted to tap him on the shoulder and discourage him from hurting the man any more. As soon as he reached out to tap the officer he was tackled from behind by multiple cops. He was arrested and told that he was resisting arrest, even though he was compliant the entire time.

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