Civil Rights Movement Continued with March on Rick Snyder’s Home

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Protesters march towards Rick Snyder’s home on MLK Day 2012

Protesterrs march towards Rick Snyder's home
Protesters march towards Rick Snyder's home on MLK Day 2012

What did you do this week on Martin Luther King Jr. Day? Some people went to lectures on the topic of race, or learned about the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Some people took advantage of the day off from school and slept.

At Washtenaw Community College (WCC), however, the parking lot was filling up with cars, vans, and buses. Banners and sign were everywhere as people drove in from all over the state of Michigan to march on Rick Snyder’s home, located in a gated community in Superior Township.

The rally began at roughly 4:00 pm at WCC, then made its way to a local park, where several speeches were made by the various groups represented, especially a contingent of  preachers from Detroit. The assembled rallygoers then began to march their way to Snyder’s house, chanting slogans like “The people, united, will never be defeated!” and “This is what democracy looks like!”

The rally was heavily attended by members of various Occupy movements, especially Occupy Ann Arbor and Occupy Detroit. Other groups like BAMN, By Any Means Necessary, a black activist group, were also out in full force. And many of the rallygoers didn’t belong to any organization at all, and were simply there to protest what they thought was unfair.

One protester holds up his anti-Snyder sign

Rick Snyder was elected in November of 2010, and one of his first and most controversial acts was Public Act 4, also known as the Emergency Manager Act. PA-4 allows Snyder to appoint an Emergency Manager to any city he judges to be in danger of bankruptcy, and gives the EM the power to replace elected officials and nullify union and collective bargaining agreements. EMs have already been placed in charge of several Michigan cities, including Pontiac and Flint.

The march’s timing was by no means a coincidence. Having the march on MLK Day definitely allowed for a much larger crowd of participants, who had been let out of school and work to celebrate the national holiday. But the timing also drew a parallel between Dr. King’s struggle to achieve civil rights and equality and the current struggle of the rallygoers to fight for their own political and financial freedom.

Protesters wave signs and T-shirts expressing their views

The cities in which the EMs have begun to take power are all largely black cities. Several of the protesters held up signs or made speeches calling PA-4 a new kind of slavery, a new way to rob black Americans of their power to vote.

The rally was heavily attended by police, who slowly drove alongside the protesters as they marched, and who guarded the front and rear of the procession. Several times, a police helicopter was visible, monitoring the scene from above.

The protesters were not actually allowed to protest in front of Snyder’s house, and instead were forced to hold the final part of their rally in the entryway to the gated community. And so they did. For several hours, the streets in front of Snyder’s home rang with chants of “They say cut back? We say fight back!” “No more Ricktators!” and “We are the 99%!”

The crowd began to shrink as the sky grew darker, and with many of the casual rallygoers gone, the mood grew more militant. When one of the ministers who had organized the march went to inform the crowd that the rally was over and they should go home now, someone else grabbed his megaphone and shouted that, “It’s not over ‘til we say it’s over!”

The rally finally ended when the police pointedly mentioned that the vans headed back to WCC would be leaving soon, and many of the protesters, now mostly composed of Occupy Ann Arbor members, began the twenty-five minute walk back to their cars. Along the way, they angrily chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!” as the brightly flashing police lights threw their shadows across the ground.

A few cars honked in solidarity with the protesters as they headed back home, but most were silent.