Union Protesters Critize Police Presence

by Jillian Kay Melchior

The Detroit News has the first reports of disturbances I’ve seen so far. It reports only two arrests, a remarkable statistic given early estimates of 10,000 protesters:

Protesters began chanting “Hell, no we won’t go!” as troopers escorting Gov. Rick Snyder threatened to arrest protesters who were occupying the entrance to the Romney building after the legislation passed the Legislature.

The protesters then attempted to sit down and resist police from creating a pathway to the door — they were removed but not arrested as troopers pulled protesters off the ground.

Troopers also came out of the building to get the wall of people to retreat but only got a few feet before protesters stood their ground and yelled, “push!” Police on horseback then dispersed the crowds, as other law enforcement in riot gear pushed back crowds with their batons.

Troopers also had to secure the scene earlier outside of the Capitol Building on the front lawn where rowdy protesters caused a tent used by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity to collapse. No one was hurt, but Love said several people told police “they escaped just in the nick of time before being crushed by the tent.”

Another incident involved a trooper’s use of pepper spray when a female officer was grabbed into the crowd by a protester, according to the MSP.

Michigan’s police — many of whom are union members themselves, and all of whom were required to pay union dues — have been criticized by many of the protesters today.

The police were there “to threaten us,” said Homey Smith of Ann Arbor, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He said he counted 61 police cars, five police trailers, and six county horses. I saw him heckling officers in uniform. (Smith also told me Governor Snyder “has got to watch his back.”)

Likewise, Mike Matlas of UAW International told me that “I think this governor is using the state police for his benefit.”

That all runs contrary to what I saw today. The police in Lansing were very effective — and very polite — in their crowd control. Many told me they were committed to creating the circumstances in which peaceful protest could occur. What’s more, I couldn’t prod any of them into disclosing their political views.

This struck home for me. Having just returned from China, where there is no freedom of assembly, and where the police are as likely to be oppressors as protectors, it’s a beautiful thing to witness a government upholding the political rights of the citizens, however eccentric.

The Corner

The one and only.