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Protestors slow traffic to send a message to Lansing

Courtesy of the Michigan Student Power Network

Student activists took to the highways Tuesday morning to protest Michigan’s emergency manager law.

Organized by the Michigan Student Power Network, the “Slowdown for Justice” sent drivers to I-94 and I-96 to slow traffic across the state. The goal, organizers said, was to send a message to Governor Rick Snyder by disrupting state commerce.

Ian Matchett, statewide organizer for MSPN, said he felt interfering with some of the state’s largest businesses was the best way to get the attention of lawmakers. While he admits the slow-down likely frustrated morning commuters, he said he wants people to be upset with the day-to-day operations of this state government.

“We can’t allow business to go forward in Michigan as normal if business as normal means we leave behind hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.

Drivers in seven cars traveled through Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids, Matchett said, driving the legal minimum speed, side-by-side across all lanes. He said drivers were instructed to comply with police if they are told to pull over.

A representative from Michigan State Police could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.

Matchett said their protest mirrors the tactics used during the Flint Sit-Down Protest of 1936-37, when workers halted operations at the General Motors plant to protest poor working conditions.

“The idea is to actually put economic pressure on the people that, apparently, the Governor listens to, who are the wealthy folks who are running major businesses here in the state,” Matchett said.

Julia Cuneo, another member of MSPN, said members not in cars are making calls to legislators in Lansing to encourage them to repeal the emergency manager law.

A bill introduced by Rep. LaToya Garrett, D-Detroit, in January would do just that. Her proposal was referred to the House’s Local Government Committee, which is headed by Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.

Chatfield's office said the bill is not scheduled for a hearing in the coming weeks.

Cuneo said the emergency manger law affects people all across the state and needs end.

“These emergency manager laws go directly against the will of the people, they have no accountability,” she said. “That’s why we see things happening the way that they happened in Flint.” 

This post has been updated.