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Group uses people power

Chalena Beasley, middle front, marches with co-workers to protest Michigan Court of Appeals refusing to grant immediate effect to its decision Public Act 4 signatures are compliant with state law. Beasley is a Detroit Public Schools teacher and three children who are DPS students. The court decision to grant immediate effect would nullify the law authorizing DPS Emergency Manager. MARCUS WRIGHT PHOTO

By Marcus Wright
Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — The coalition pushing the repeal of Public Act 4 is supplementing legal action with people power. More than 300 people occupied the lobby of Detroit’s Cadillac Place Building, known as the State building, July 11. Chants of “Let the people vote” could be heard throughout the halls.

On the 14th floor, a panel of Appeals Court Justices on July 10 denied the community coalition Stand Up For Democracy’s (SUFD) motion to give immediate effect to the panel’s ruling that the signatures gathered are compliant with state law.

Robert Davis, activist and AFSCME employee, said the protest march was to show Gov. Rick Snyder, the Appeals Court Judges and Supreme Court Justices the people want to vote on Public Act 4. “The Court of Appeals stalling tactics are truly undemocratic,” Davis said. “Hopefully, the Supreme Court will act swiftly in deciding to not hear the case and the issue can go on the November ballot.”

Aug. 27 is the deadline for ballot measures and referendum language to be submitted and approved for the November election ballot.

SUFD Attorney Herb Sanders said the court is being disingenuous. According to Sanders, the appeals court said it no longer has jurisdiction because the Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. “They’re playing a shell game with us,” Sanders said. “The Michigan Supreme Court has not indicated it will hear the case.”

As this paper went to press, the state’s highest court announced it will hear oral arguments July 25 at 10 a.m. Each side will have 30 minutes to present their case.

Chalena Beasley, a DPS teacher and parent of three DPS students, said the emergency manager (EM) has done nothing to improve student achievement. “The EM does not work in the best interest of the students,” Beasley said. “He has made decisions that have caused good teachers to leave the district. Those decisions have a negative impact student achievement.

Maureen Taylor of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization said the actions of the courts do not surprise her. Taylor said SUFD should concentrate on recruiting more people. “The only way we’re going to bring about change is by people-participation,” Taylor said.

Rev. Charles Williams, Jr. agreed. He said when the group went to the state capital, they played by their rules. “We were asked to stand here; we did as we were asked. We were asked to sit there, and we sat there,” Rev. Williams said. “We won’t get anywhere doing that. We have to make it uncomfortable for them. We can’t be afraid of civil disobedience.”

Sanders said he and other attorneys are looking at going into federal court. It’s a matter of voting rights and the power of the state to suppress the will of the people, he said. “We would ask the federal court to force the state court comply with its own ruling,” he said.

Rev. D. Alexander Bullock spoke as the march ended. “We will overcome, but we will have to come back in larger numbers to overcome,” he said. “Our presence is very important. It is not about Facebook but about coming together face to face to face down the devil.”

Sanders agreed. “Your presence here today shines a light on what they are trying to do,” Sanders said. “When we march in Lansing we are going to need many, many more than we have here.”

So far the July 11 demonstration has turned out the greatest numbers of citizens at the state building to protest the state and court’s stalling tactics.

Contact Marcus Wright at marcuswright@michigancitizen.com

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