On Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2011, on Shelden Avenue in Houghton, local residents organize a spontaneous Solidarity Rally to support the thousands of Michiganders who gathered at the Capitol in Lansing that same day to protest Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's recent budget legislation. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Jeremy S. Sandrik)
By Jeremy S. Sandrik*
HOUGHTON -- On Wednesday, March 16, 2011, a small group of rabble rousers and malcontents, myself included, gathered at 5th and Elm Coffee House in Houghton, Mich., to express solidarity with workers, seniors, and the middle class of Michigan that are under attack by Governor Snyder's recent budget legislation. Our numbers were few, but our spirit was indomitable as we marched down Shelden Avenue under the banner reading "Recall Snyder," enduring raised middle fingers and enjoying honks, smiles, and raised fists as we reached the end of the day's procession at Veterans Park at the Houghton end of the Portage Lift Bridge.
Moms and kids help paint a large "Recall Snyder" sign outside the Fifth and Elm Coffee House in Houghton. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Jeremy S. Sandrik)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that Republican Governor Rick Snyder has successfully rammed anti-Union, anti-democratic legislation through both houses of Michigan's legislature. Snyder's budget balances his 86 percent cut in business taxes on the backs of seniors, whose pensions will now be taxed. More sinister to my mind is the language that allows the Governor's office to declare a school or municipality in a state of emergency (or hire a corporation to do so) and assign an emergency financial manager with the power to dissolve collective bargaining contracts as well as whole elected school boards or local governments. Let that marinate . . . an unelected appointee with the power to undo the will of the people at the local level. Does this sound like smaller government?
After marching down Shelden Avenue, the group calls attention to their sign with drumming in Veterans Park, just above the Portage Lift Bridge in Houghton. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Jeremy S. Sandrik)
I thought not, and when the wheels began turning toward mobilizing on Facebook, of course, I was happy to find I was not alone. Our event was not meticulously orchestrated, but we had spontaneity on our side. The point here was to get our faces and voices together, rather than be another digital act of clicktivism. We wanted to see each other -- and be seen by our community at large as a real human presence. We wanted to stoke the fire that I believe burned at the core of every person who came out -- and build momentum toward not only a larger demonstration and protest, but a movement to restore dignity for the worker, democracy for America.
Drummers Stephanie Trevino and Matt Bradley add music to the rally. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Jeremy S. Sandrik)
On that note, there seemed to be consensus that the next real action in the framework of the traditional democratic process that can be taken by the engaged citizen is petitioning to recall Snyder (firericksnyder.org). One should note that the State of Michigan will not recognize online petitions; and signatures will not be counted on petitions that circulate prior to July 1, 2011. What that means is that there is time to build steam and grow a movement so that, when July 1 rolls around, the Copper Country and the U.P. will be swarming with busy bees with petitions, alongside the black flies.
Jeremy S. Sandrik, author of this article raises a fist for democracy during the Solidarity Rally at Veterans Park in Houghton on March 16. Sandrik and other local citizens organized the rally spontaneously to show support for the March 16 Rally in Lansing, which reportedly attracted about 6,000 participants. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Jeremy S. Sandrik)
Harry S. Truman said, "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." That said, no organization or single person can take responsibility for the gathering in Houghton that took place yesterday, nor for the larger movement restoring honor to the American worker. In my mind, part of the problem we have here is the slavish adherence to pyramidal hierarchies as opposed to distributed networks. It’s not important who leads a movement, only the density of connections at the core. Heads are easily decapitated, but neural networks adapt and rewire when there is damage to the brain. However, you need to be able to access the network. If you’d like to get involved in the movement to recall Governor Snyder, particularly in the Houghton/Hancock/Keweenaw area, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can get hooked up with the official Snyder recall campaign at the aforementioned firericksnyder.org.
Any future protests, demonstrations, marches, sign-painting parties, etc., will be announced here on Keweenaw Now, and with a little more lead time.
Vive la résistance!
Editor's Note: Guest writer and photographer Jeremy S. Sandrik is a Copper Country resident.