While thousands of union workers and their supporters protested outside the Michigan Capitol Tuesday, Governor Rick Snyder signed into law two bills that dramatically limit labor rights.
“This isn’t about us versus them. This about Michiganders,” Snyder said at a news conference in which he announced signing the legislation.
However, the events unfolding outside and inside the Capitol couldn’t have contradicted his statement more sharply. A very real ideological battle is occurring in Michigan right now between labor and the forces that wish to destroy the power of collective bargaining.
From the first rumblings of a potential protest within the Capitol, law enforcement officials have made it very clear they don’t intend to allow Michigan to become another Wisconsin, and police donning riot gear and armed with tear gas canisters, pepper spray and batons patrolled the corridors, determined to prevent a similar occupation to the one that lasted in the Wisconsin Capitol for nearly three weeks. (photo by @JeffRae)
State Police officials confirmed that one of their troopers used pepper spray on a protester (the AP bizarrely reports the pepper spray was used to “calm the protester”), and even though police claim the man “grabbed a trooper,” he wasn’t arrested. Two other people were arrested after they reportedly tried to force their way into another building on the grounds where Snyder has offices.
Mark Schauer, a Democrat who previously represented the state in the US House, told Lansing news services MIRS that he was pepper-sprayed in a separate incident while protesting.[…]
“Unfortunately while people were exercising their first amendment rights, I among them got pepper sprayed by police officers,” Schauer said in a MIRS video. “We were not endangering the building in any way but we wanted to make sure, since the Republicans have not provided for any public hearings or opportunities for people to speak on these bills, that they can hear how the people really feel. Unfortunately, some of us are paying a price for it.”
Mounted police rode into a crowd of protesters and used the bodies of their horses to push the crowd back as the protesters booed and screamed at the police.