Today’s graduation day protest against Rick Snyder

Our friend Glen was in Ann Arbor this morning for the big protest against the Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who was the keynote speaker at today’s University of Michigan commencement. Here’s his report.

I just returned from Ann Arbor, where I was one of approximately 3000 people (my estimate) who turned out to protest Governor Snyder, who was at Michigan Stadium to address the University of Michigan’s 2011 graduating class.

Some highlights:

– At approximately 8 a.m., as people were filling the bleachers of the Pioneer High School football field, folks were entertained by the “Koch Brothers,” two actors wearing tuxedo jackets and top-hats, joking about how Snyder had been “one of their better purchases,” and singing “This land is my land, this land is MY land …, etc.”

– As the crowd grew, it became clear that red was the color of the day, with many of the union members in attendance encouraged to wear red t-shirts, jackets, hats, etc. There were many people of all ages, including many families with small children, and many carried pre-made and homemade signs.

– At one point, a plane began circling overhead, pulling a banner sponsored by the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, which read, “Governor Snyder: Some Cuts NEVER Heal” … which brought a big round applause.

– At approximately 8:30 a.m., the formal program of speakers kicked off, including State Senator Rebekah Warren, UAW International President Bob King, former U.S. Representative Lynn Rivers, and many representatives of local unions including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Michigan Federation of Teachers, U-M Graduate Employees Organization, fire department unions, police unions, etc.

– As speaker after speaker detailed the terrible impacts of Snyder’s policies on education, the environment, the poor, working people, etc., a “theme” began to develop many of them would ask the rhetorical question, “Is that right?” and the crowd would chant back, in unison, “THAT’S NOT RIGHT!”

– At one point in the program, Alexie Salazar, a 5th-grade student from Haslett, Michigan spoke to the crowd about the importance of supporting education,about how she is worried how budget cuts might impact her dream of studying to be a zoologist, and asking why the Governor doesn’t seem to understand why these cuts are such a bad idea. Then, at the end, she held up a sign that read: “Governor Snyder, Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?”

– At around 9:20 a.m., the formal program ended, and the crowd began lining up for the march to Michigan Stadium. There were so many people that — as the first protesters began arriving at the Stadium (at the Corner of Main Street and Stadium Boulevard.) there were still protesters leaving Pioneer …

– Once the bulk of the crowd neared the stadium, they were directed by “Protest Marshals” to form two groups, once forming a long loop on the sidewalk on the Main Street side of the stadium, and other other along Stadium Boulevard.

– I cycled back-and-forth between both contingents … enjoying the overall atmosphere, as well as the many clever signs. Various chants would ebb and flow throughout the ever-moving crowd, among the most notable were: “Hey-hey, ho-ho, plutocracy has got to go,” … “What does democracy look like? THIS is what democracy looks like!” … “Money for jobs and education … end the wars and occupation!,” etc. But, by far, the most popular chant was the simplest and most direct: “RE-CALL RICK!”

– At some point, around 10:15 or so, word was spread by the “Marshals” that Governor Snyder was about to speak. At that point, virtually the entire crowd turned toward the wrought-iron fence and began loudly chanting “RE-CALL RICK! RE-CALL RICK!” with the sound echoing back from the brick walls of the stadium. After a few minutes of this (and just about as I got the sense the crowd was beginning to tire of chanting) two young women from inside the event ran up to the fence to tell us that we were, indeed, being heard by the folks inside. This news spread among the protesters, and our chants grew even louder.

– Before long, word began to spread that Snyder was through speaking, and the crowd began assembling near the corner of Main and Stadium, preparing to wind down the protest. As the crowd began snaking its way back toward Pioneer, the Ann Arbor Police blocked traffic (as they had earlier) so groups of protesters could safely cross the intersection, and I saw many people shaking hands with and thanking individual police officers for their assistance.

– Overall, I’d say the prevailing “mood” of the event was very peaceful, and even somewhat festive. While it is hard to know what impact, if any, this event may ultimately have, I think it was good to see so many people showing up to express their objection to Snyder, the Republican majority, and these disastrous tax and budget cuts.

– While I didn’t really get a chance to take any decent pictures during the event, local (Ann Arbor) blogger Chris Savage (who I recognized, and had a chance to meet this morning) has some good pictures, along with some additional reporting and commentary on his site, “Eclectablog”.

And here’s news coverage from Chanel 7.

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8 Comments

  1. LaidOffTeacherPatti
    Posted April 30, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Glen (is this Glen S., who posts here? If so, we have a mutual friend named Beth Bashert! How cool is that?), thanks for this. I couldn’t make it this morning and I’m glad to hear that it was well attended and loud. I’m so sick of hearing how awful unions are, how awful teachers are, and having the tax cuts to the rich being downplayed (esp. by friends who are not rich and never will be)…this is like a breath of fresh air. Thanks!

  2. Boy O Boy
    Posted April 30, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Inside the Big House you have a bunch of “graduates” who owe their education to citizens of Michigan. Outside you have a bunch of “activists” who owe their paychecks to citizens of Michigan. One group listening to the other protesting a speech by a guy who owes both his education and paycheck to the citizens of Michigan. Seems like we keep writing checks other people are cashing.

    TIME FOR US TO STOP WRITING BLANK CHECKS. PERIOD!!!

  3. Dirtgrain
    Posted April 30, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    “. . . owe their paychecks to citizens of Michigan.”

    What Mark wrote weeks ago rings true here: teachers are the new welfare queens. Here, you use “owe” to mean that teachers have to pay that money back, like it’s a loan? Or do you mean simply that taxpayers fund public education? Whatever the case, it’s an interesting twist on the word. It almost sounds like you mean that taxpayers did the work, and teachers have to pay the taxpayers for it. You have it backwards. When you do contracted work, you expect to be paid for it–you are owed the agreed upon money for it.

    “Seems like we keep writing checks other people are cashing.”

    What on earth is this supposed to mean? Do you think you should only write checks that you would cash? How would that make sense? Why did you write this sentence?

  4. Boy O Boy
    Posted April 30, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Where do you think teacher’s pay comes from? The taxpayers or some magical man in the sky? My point is that everyone outside the stadium and inside the stadium are there on our dime. Including the commencement speaker. THEY are all players on the same “team.”

  5. Boy O Boy
    Posted April 30, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Why should I pay for their liberal elite “education” when they don’t pay for my patio?

  6. Peter Larson
    Posted May 1, 2011 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    They do pay for your patio. You work for them.

  7. Brainless
    Posted May 1, 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Why are you all engaging a 14-year-old Boy-o in a conversation about adult issues?

  8. LaidOffTeacherPatti
    Posted May 1, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    He’s right on this account–my money comes from the magical man in the sky. Doesn’t everyones????

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