They arrived before sun up and within minutes of the Capitol Building opening there was no room left inside. Still they arrived by car, bus and truck until 12400+ jammed the front of the Capitol Building to express their dismay about the Right to Work law being voted on in the House and Senate.
In what opponents called a political objective possibly violating the open meetings laws and requirements for public hearings bills were passed and sent to the governor making Michigan, the home of the modern labor movement a Right to Work State.
From across the state virtually every union and their supporters were represented from Autoworkers to Teamsters and teachers to Boilermakers. Hearing speeches from political leaders like House Democratic Leader Tim Griemel, labor leaders from the AFL-CIO, UAW and Teamster and religious leaders, the crowd heard and reacted to calls for the legislation not to be signed into law. Passage was a foregone conclusion, giving the Republican majority in both Houses.
Ultimately, in spite of pleas from the Michgian Democratic Congressional delegation led by Sen. Carl Levin, Gov. Snyder signed the bills into law.
The protesters at the Capitol Building itself were peaceful albeit loud and passionate, only one incident at the entrance to the Capitol (under the front steps of the building) as a mounted officer started to back her horse into the crowd to force them back. Union appointed and trained marshals used to control the crowd and defuse tense situations stepped between the crowd and mounted officers moving the crowd back and the mounted deputies removed themselves from the front of the building, leaving it to regular and SWAT team troopers armed with assault weapons and tear gas.
Later in the day protesters surrounded the Governor Romney Building Office and State Police used pepper spray to break up the crowd. Officials claimed a protester grabbed a Trooper, provoking the response.
The main protest at the Capitol Building was peaceful and had something of a carnival feeling in spite of the serious nature of the gathering. People were helpful and friendly and several unions were passing out bottled water and hot dogs and chips to the crowd.
While virtually all the attention during the day was on the two RTW bills, an anti-abortion and contraceptive bill was also passed and Planned Parenthood was present to remind its constituents and the public of that bill, which was duly noted by several speakers as an attack on Women’s Rights.
The RTW laws will be effective ninety days after the end of the current legislative session. Further protests and court challenges are expected during that period.