As Michigan's new emergency manager and right-to-work laws both kicked in on March 28, Detroit protesters took to the streets to voice their opposition to the new legislation.
On Thursday, National Action Network founder Al Sharpton announced the filing of a lawsuit challenging the legality of Public Act 436, the new EM law that gives state-appointed managers expanded powers, WDIV-TV reports.
Sharpton said that Detroit's opposition to an emergency manager was “a local issue but a national struggle,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
The state takeover of Detroit has inspired a series of demonstrations over the last few weeks, including a number of traffic slowdowns on local highways linked to convoys of anti-EM activists.
Emergency manager protesters, who had previously kept their demonstrations outside of City Hall, also stepped up their tactics on Thursday, and took their opposition to the state's takeover of Detroit inside the building itself.
The Detroit News reports that a group of about 100 people occupied the lobby of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center Thursday, effectively tying up operations in the building for about two hours before leaving. Security prevented them from reaching the 11th floor where Mayor Dave Bing's and Emergency Manager (EM) Kevyn Orr's offices are located. The demonstrators reportedly hoped to call on the mayor to "man up" and work with them to oppose the new emergency manager.
"I woke up this morning ready to get arrested," Rev. Charles Williams II, President of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, which helped organize the demonstration, told the Detroit Free Press.
Bill Nowling, a spokesman for Orr, told the Detroit News that the emergency manager had offered to speak with Williams, but was refused.
Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts has also become a target for protesters. On Wednesday, supporters of the Detroit Board of Education dropped a banner reading "EM OUT" from the side of the historic Fisher Building in the city's New Center district, where his office is located. The school board has been engaged in a long power struggle with Roberts, clashing over the signing of contracts for several unpaid board appointees. On Thursday, as PA 436 kicked in and enhanced his authority, Roberts issued a memo stating his intention to fire the school board's appointed superintendent and revoke the boards efforts to ratify new contracts and hire new administrators.
Emergency managers weren't the only sore spot for protesters in Detroit on Thursday. The day also marked the official start of right-to-work legislation, which prevents companies and labor organizations from signing contracts requiring mandatory union dues payment by employees.
Dozens of pro-labor demonstrators picketed and marched outside of a "Pancakes and Politics" breakfast at the Detroit Athletic Club put on by the Michigan Chronicle newpaper where Gov. Rick Snyder was speaking.
Retired Chrysler worker Jim Peters told WWJ radio he thought it was important to continue protesting the legislation. "I think it will stir up people eventually where they’ll get rid of this right-to-work law,” he said.