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Detroit City Council approves restructuring contract as protesters disrupt meeting

Several people were arrested after protests broke outat a Detroit City Council meeting Tuesday.

Singing, chanting and linking arms, the protesters forced Council President Pugh to recess the meeting for more than an hour.

They were upset that Council was about to take a vote on a restructuring contract with the Jones Day law firm. That’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s former firm.

Critics say $3.35 million contract represents a conflict of interest. They maintain that Jones Day represents some of the very creditors they’re likely to deal with in talks to restructure Detroit’s long term debt.

After the delay, the Council voted 5-2 to approve the contract.  The vote was largely symbolic, as Orr now has authority over city contracts and other budgetary matters.

Council members themselves were divided about the protest, largely along the lines of how they voted on the Jones Day contract.

Council member JoAnn Watson said the protesters weren’t the problem.  “The problem is voting rights have been taken away,” she said.

Council member Saunteel Jenkins disagreed. “The way you choose to fight is not necessarily the way I choose to fight,” she chastised protesters as the Council reconvened afterwards.

Jenkins says now that Orr is in office, the Council’s job is largely to foster transparency in the political process—and the protesters aren’t helping.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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