Michigan Governor Rick Snyder served as 'Grand Marshal' (martial?) of the St. Joseph / Benton Harbor Blossom-time Parade this afternoon.
Michigan Progressives have been kept busy this spring running from one rally to another. This is the third one in Benton Harbor just in the last few weeks. My right-wing church choir director, who likes to tease me about my activism, asked me recently if I had been in Lansing standing up for his rights. I've had conflicts with other events for most of these rallies, but decided I had better make time for this one in his honor (Thanks, Nate!)
I arrived at Benton Harbor City Hall around 11 to find a crowd of several hundred, which continued to grow as we listened to the Mayor of Benton Harbor, several council members, a local Pastor, Detroit-area state Rep. Fred Durhal Jr., and UAW President Bob King, among other speakers.
Rep. Fred Durhal Jr.
UAW President Bob King
The crowd got a big shot in the arm with the arrival of a whole bus-load from Traverse City. Thanks to our brothers and sisters from up north!
After some more speeches, the crowd marched from Benton Harbor towards the bridge between BH and St. Joseph. The march was slower than I like to walk, and I was thinking that perhaps the Governor would bail out of the parade before going across the bridge. I wanted him to at least see a few of us. So I picked up my pace, and walked to downtown SJ, found a spot and hung out.
There were others protesting the Governor around me, although the main group of 700 or so never made it as far as I was. One elderly lady said to me "Go back to Russia!" as I passed - I stopped, and walked back to her, which took her aback, and I said, "Explain this to me. You want me to leave this country, where I am exercising my free speech rights, which are precious to me, and presumably to you as well, and go where I would not have those rights -- why?" I did not get much of a reply to that, but it felt good.
After a good wait, and some more chatting with those around me, the parade finally started with some police cars, a banner, and our Governor!
I took some video as he passed - you tell me whether his eyes flicker over me before he passes, or not? My sign said "Sick of Rick", as I heartily am after just a few months of his misadministration.
Now, it turns out that the Governor did stick with the parade to the end - as I was walking back to Benton Harbor, I heard the chants of "Recall Rick!" from the large crowd ahead of me. So I have to give him credit for that -- he stuck to what he said he was going to do. I did not get video of that part, but I'll bet it will be available elsewhere. (Edit: eclectablog has it here: http://www.dailykos.com/...)
In the end, what do these protests accomplish? I'm pretty sure that Gov. Snyder would say that all of us who are so exercised over these issues simply don't understand what he is trying to do; that PA 4 is about helping local units of government to avoid going into receivership in the first place. I'm sure we did not change his mind about anything today. I'm pretty certain that none of the Republican majority in the legislature are going to second-guess themselves as a result of today. When we exercise
...the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
...who is listening? None of us can say for sure.
I know several things tonight:
I know that there are a bunch of people in Benton Harbor who now know that there are folks all across Michigan who care about their city and their rights.
I know that there are many who will see the news of this event who will at least ask themselves what it is all about, and begin to educate themselves.
I know that when I got home and went to a neighborhood picnic, I had five different people in a gathering of about 15 ask when they could sign a petition to recall Snyder.
For tonight, that will have to do.