By Austin Metz
Editor in Chief
While holding signs that included slogans such as “Don’t kill our Dream”, “You can’t create jobs by putting people out of work,” and “Justice for workers now,” protestors in Grand Rapids, along with over a thousand other groups around the state of Michigan, voiced their concern over new Governor Rick Synder’s recent policy changes.
“This is democracy at work, people standing up for their rights,” said former State Representative Mike Huckabee. “This is America’s defining moment. If we don’t stand up for the middle class, eventually there will be no middle class.”
The protest took place on the corner of Ottawa and Michigan in downtown Grand Rapids and drew close to 350 individuals of varying ages out into the cold Michigan air to stand up for the right to afford a college education as well as justice for both native and immigrant workers.
Michael Johnston, Editor of the Grand Valley Labor News, led the protestors in chants of “We are one” and “They say cut back, we say fight back” and was quick to point out that this is what he called “an assault on labor” and that the goal is to “help the middle class.”
Dick Groendyke, a Jenison resident, explained that the issue, to him, lies with the budget deficit the state now has.
“It took 30 years to get like this but we need to start taking corrective actions now to help reverse the spending,” Groendyke said.
“We got in this by increasing spending and lowering taxes but it’s time we should reverse the trend. I do my part by paying taxes and everyone should do the same.”
“If we are all equal citizens then why shouldn’t we all be out to solve the problems?” he added.
“Why must a few bare the burden for the many?”
The crowd, which included everyone from firefighters to retired factory workers, was met with honks of support from passing cars as well as fire trucks and Rapid buses. They spent close to an hour chanting a variety of slogans as well as holding signs and flags in opposition.
Brandon Dillon is a State Representative for the eastern part of Grand Rapids and was in attendance at the protest.
“I have been to a few of the rallies around the state and I think it’s great,” Dillon said.
As for the situation Michigan is currently in, Dillon voiced his thoughts.
“There are steps that are being taken that are going in the wrong direction,” he said. “These policies are asking one group to shoulder a lot of the responsibility which is why I’m encouraging people to contact their legislators and try to make a change.”
Although the protest did remain peaceful, there were those in attendance who made their voice heard.
“If the president of the United States did something like this, people would be screaming,” said former General Motors employee Rick Hamilton. “This guy, the governor, is acting like a dictator!”
The event was organized as a peaceful protest by the UAW with fliers sent to those on the UAW mailing list as well as by word of mouth with more planned in the future weeks and months throughout the state.