Lansing, MI - Nearly 200 protesters rallied here July 25. They stood for three hours on the steps of the Michigan “Hall of Justice,” to demand an end to Governor Rick Snyder’s use of Emergency Financial Managers (EFM).
The EFM law is a new dictatorial method used by Governor Snyder to impose cutbacks and privatization, as well as violate the local autonomy of elected officials. Snyder, a Republican who campaigned as “the Nerd,” presented himself as likeable and harmless, but he quickly went to work cutting funding, suspending elected officials and taking over school boards and local governments using unelected state appointed Emergency Financial Managers.
As protesters made speeches outside, the Michigan Supreme Court heard the case about an upcoming ballot initiative to do away with Emergency Financial Managers. Over 200,000 signatures were collected on petitions to put the EFM on the ballot for voters to decide in November. Instead of allowing a vote, the ballot to end EFM is being dragged through the courts by Republicans. The Sterling Corporation, which runs a group called Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility is trying to kill, or at least delay, the EFM ballot initiative in court by claiming the font size on the titles of the petitions was too small. In Michigan, this is what ‘democracy’ looks like. The Stand Up for Democracy coalition, which collected the petitions, is forced to eat up time and money in court, instead of campaigning for public support.
Speaking at the rally, Councilman Kermit Williams of Pontiac said, “Governor Snyder’s Public Act Four is not an act for the public, but an act for the corporations.” He added, “The EFM has more power than a governor. They can come in to local government and do what they want. The government has failed us today!”
Led by preachers, the crowd chanted, “Put it on the ballot. Let me vote!” and “The judges don’t decide. We decide!” Speaker after speaker representing African-American activist groups, local government officials and important unions were present: Black Women’s Political Caucus of Muskegon, AFSCME Council 25, UAW Local 6000, National Action Network of Detroit, the Reverend Pinkney of Benton Harbor with the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO), Lansing Occupy and the Left Forum of Grand Rapids.
Pat Driscoll, a worker and member of United Steel Workers Local 1299, was in the courtroom with 60 or more people seeking a decision from the Michigan Supreme Court. Coming out of the court, Driscoll said, “They need to let the people vote. These big business types are using technicalities and maneuvers to keep this off the ballot. The Emergency Financial Managers are used to cut public services and break union contracts. It is all to protect the banks’ money after the big bank bailouts, and now the government is selling off assets for bargain prices, privatizing and forcing concessions on workers.” Later Driscoll added, “It is racist too, they are targeting majority African-American areas to start with.”
The Supreme Court is not likely to announce a decision until the end of August, delaying the ballot initiative another six weeks. When the referendum is put on the ballot, the EFM law is automatically suspended until the November vote. There are seven cities and/or school districts with EFM’s: Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Muskegon Heights and Highland Park. The gains of the civil rights movement are being turned back in Michigan.