2 pro-union protestors arrested near Michigan Capitol
Thousands rally in Lansing for, against right-to-work legislation
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State Police say pepper spray has been used to subdue a protestor outside the state Capitol who had his hands on a trooper.
Capt. Harold Love says the female trooper was being pulled into a crowd Tuesday. Love says a male trooper standing nearby gave two short bursts of pepper spray to end the incident. There was no arrest.
Thousands of union supporters are at the Capitol protesting legislation that would make financial support of unions voluntary. The bills are expected to become law when they hit Gov. Rick Snyder's desk.
Love says two people were arrested when they tried to get into the George Romney Building, a state office building that was closed.
On the Capitol grounds, a big white tent erected for supporters of the legislation collapsed. There were no injuries.
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Hundreds of demonstrators earlier packed all four levels of the rotunda, chanting "Union!" and" What's disgusting? Union-busting!" They stomped their feet and banged together hard hats.
A block-and-a-half mass including autoworkers, sheet metal workers, machinists, and electrical workers chanting "We are the union, the mighty, might union" left the Lansing Center Tuesday morning , en route to City hall, across from the Capitol.
Spectators lined up in the dark Tuesday morning before the building opened, shouting and stomping their feet in below-freezing temperatures.
Four large inflatable toy rats were set up on the Capitol lawn. They bore the names of Snyder, House Speaker Jase Bolger, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and Dick DeVos, a Grand Rapids businessman whom union leaders believe is pushing the right-to-work bills.
What the people have to say
Fifty-seven-year-old Valerie Constance is a Wayne County Community College District developmental reading instructor and member or the American Federation of Teachers. She sat on the Capitol steps with a sign shaped like a tombstone. It read: "Here lies democracy."
Fifty-year-old carpenter Edward DeRocher of Walled Lake held a sign that said, "One Tough Turd," a commentary on Snyder's 2010 election slogan, "One Tough Nerd."
Sue Brown is a 50-year-old pipefitter from Midland. She said she's not in a union, but she's convinced that right-to-work legislation weakens unions' powers, leading to lower wages for everyone. She says unions including the United Auto Workers "created the middle class."
Wes Nakagiri of Livingston County's Hartland Township is an engineer with an auto parts supplier in Troy and says he turned out to see the "historical significance" of the day. He says he supports the legislation but "can see both sides."
Sixty-one-year-old Lindsey Curtis of Flint says she is inspired by the gathering after fearing "unions had just rolled over." The retired police identification technician and water department meter reader says she hopes the governor "hears the message."
Safety at the Capitol
Early in the morning, Local 4 was there and found police already out patrolling the grounds.
"The biggest challenge will be just controlling the flow of people in and out of the Capitol. Everybody's going to want to be inside," Michigan State Police Capt. Harold Love said. "But as you know, there's a capacity to the building. So, once we have people trying to get inside and getting people to comply and understand that we have to keep a certain number of people in different areas of the building."
Love said police have riot gear on hand and will be monitoring all entrances to the building -- even windows.
He said there was an incident last week when a group of protestors climbed into the Capitol through a building.
"Once we detected that, it was just a matter of getting some troopers over there to care of it. When you say it's a wake up call, you just didn't think people would go to that level to try to defy what we were trying to get them to do," he said. "We took some corrective measures and that won't happen again."
AFSCME union representative Robyn Price says it is obvious what's going on here.
"The long-term effect is this is union-busting at its best. And you don't go in and say, 'I don't want a union, but I take all your revenue away.' So how can you survive?" said Price.
Rainbow PUSH chief Pastor D. Alexander Bullock gathered fellow pastors at his Bethany Baptist church in Detroit to figure out a future game plan.
"Indeed, we think that we can still convince (Gov. Rick Snyder) to veto," Bullock said. "But this is an issue for the greater community."
There is no veto coming as Snyder likely is to sign the right-to-work law either Wednesday or Thursday. It may take that long for the legislation to reach his desk.
"Unfortunately, because of Proposal 2 and that whole process, it got highlighted enough. Now, let's just try to treat each other with respect and get through this difficult time," said Snyder.
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