Activists in Lansing plan to keep Capitol building open over night

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 3:05 pm | More from The Michigan Messenger

Activists who plan to take over the Michigan Capitol late Tuesday afternoon say while the move may appear aggressive it is really just an “expression of free speech,” and a move meant to keep “the people’s house” open.

“The plan is to keep the capitol open over night,” says Lance Enderle, a former Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional district. “It’s our house.”

Enderle says the plan is to bridge Tuesday’s protest against Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposals to eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit and to tax retirement pensions with Wednesday’s planned protest to challenge what opponents say is the GOP’s plan to gut the rights of organized labor and put an unfair tax burden on residents in order to give a massive tax break to businesses.

“It is basically to keep the momentum going from today to tomorrow,” Enderle said. “This is something that impacts everyone’s lives. We are just standing up for our rights, like everyone should be doing — Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives, Tea Partiers. This Emergency Financial Manager bill is a total attack on democracy and our American way of life. That effects everybody. It’s not just a partisan issue. It’s a people issue.”

Activist Joe Carney agrees. He was at Tuesday’s protest on budget provision, lugging a sign that on one side had a quote from Adolf Hitler about eliminating unions and on the other side a reference to Santa Claus making a list. Carney has a white beard.

“We are a coalition of like minded people who believe we will prevail by creating coalitions with like minded groups,” Carney says. “Sometimes leadership is hesitant to push the envelope because of ramifications of what they might do. We are going to have a peaceful demonstration at the Capitol.”

Enderle and Carney say they have at least 150 people who have committed to stay in the Capitol building after its 5:30 p.m. closing time. If that happens, Capitol officials tell Michigan Messenger that people will be given 10 minutes to vacate the property. Those who do not will likely face expulsion and arrest by Michigan State Police troopers.

Complicating that matter, however, is the fact that Republicans in last year’s budget voted to defund and shut down the state capitol post of the Michigan State Police. As a result, only two uniform officers are stationed in the building, along with a bevy of Sergent-at-Arms staff. MSP will likely have to call officers in from road patrols in order to safely remove protesters from the building. There is a possibility that MSP could call in Lansing Police to assist in such an action.

Ari Adler, spokesperson for Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, declined to discuss security measures.

Enderle offered a harsh assessment of Democratic leadership in the legislature.

“It was the first time I saw any Democratic leadership among the people. Where are our leaders period? Do we have leaders or do we lemmings?” Enderle asked, noting that while several Democratic leaders addressed the protests on Tuesday, they’d been missing from previous rallies.

“I believe we need to have more visible leadership there,” says Carney. But he notes that during last week’s Senate votes on the controversial Emergency Financial Manager legislation, protesters packed the capitol building, chanting “Kill the bill” while the Senate was voting on amendments. He said it was difficult for lawmakers to do their job on the Senate floor, and talk to protesters. “There is a balance,” he said. :Everything is in balance. You gotta do the work but you gotta be out there.”

Tuesday’s protest saw about 1,500 people. Wednesday’s protest, organizers say, could see as many as 5,000 people. Filmmaker Michael Moore, who Monday published a blog calling on Michigan residents to go to Lansing Wednesday, tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that he will pay for buses to bring people to Lansing Wednesday.

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