About 30 citizens ventured out Thursday evening in the drizzling rain to Detroit's Grand Circus Park to march in protest of Michigan's emergency manager law.
Public Act 4, passed in March, allows the state to appoint emergency managers to take over struggling cities.
Four Michigan cities and one school district are currently under the rule of these managers, appointees of the governor with near absolute decision-making power. The city of Detroit is presently undergoing a review to see if it qualifies for a state takeover.
The group We Are the People called the demonstration to encourage Michigan citizens to sign a petition to freeze the law and put it up for a statewide referendum. Also present were members of Occupy Detroit, Michigan Forward and the AFL-CIO.
The protest marked a return to Grand Circus Park for members of Occupy Detroit, who had set up an encampment there in October, but left for the winter in November.
Protesters marched to the Spirit of Detroit Statue and engaged in a few moments of silent prayer. Many of the marchers carried repeal petitions that would place Public Act 4 on the November ballot. Organizers say they have collected 170,000 signatures, more than the nearly 162,000 needed to achieve their goal. Charles Brown, a city employee who works with Occupy Detroit, asked the crowd for volunteers to help verify petition signatures.
A spokesman for Occupy Detroit, Writer L. Bush, said he was concerned an emergency Manager in Detroit would disenfranchise voters and strip unions of their bargaining power.
"Every political group that I know in Detroit is unilaterally against Public Act 4," Bush said. "We were against it when it was the emergency financial manager and we're against it now that it's emergency manager and we will be against it in its next incarnation that they are coming up with even as we speak."
The new legislation Bush alluded to is an effort by Republican state Senators to pass a stop-gap bill in the event the petition drive is successful. Michigan Senate Bill 865 would modify Public Act 4 and set up a receivership transition board, potentially allowing the state to sidestep the referendum effort. That legislation is waiting on a vote from the state House of Representatives.
Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday told HuffPost he would respect the referendum effort, but hinted he would also support the stop-gap emergency manager legislation in the Senate.
"There's a question though about a real challenge to, say, not having something on the emergency manager front could be very challenging for not just Detroit, but a number of communities given the state of affairs that we have," Snyder said. "So I think it would be prudent in that circumstance to say what do we need to do in the interim until that vote is held to make sure we're doing the right thing for the citizens of those communities and the citizens of Michigan."
Opponents of the emergency manager law are expected to march on the governor's home in Superior Township on Monday as part of a Martin Luther King, Jr., Day rally.
Simone Landon contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misidentified a spokesman for Occupy Detroit as simply L. Bush. He is Writer L. Bush.
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