| DETROIT, March 28
DETROIT, March 28 Protesters chanted slogans and
marched on government buildings in Detroit on Thursday in
support of a lawsuit that seeks to halt Michigan state-appointed
emergency managers taking over six economically strapped cities,
including the home of the U.S. auto industry.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday by a coalition of civil
rights and religious groups, labor leaders and elected city
officials, claims that Michigan's emergency manager law enacted
in December "effectively establishes a new form of government"
in the state.
The suit in federal court in Detroit seeks an injunction to
prevent emergency managers in "Motor City" and five other
Michigan cities, as well as three school districts, from
exercising broad powers that go into effect Thursday.
The law allows the managers to take actions usually reserved
to elected mayors and city councils, without city oversight. In
Detroit, a former bankruptcy lawyer, Kevyn Orr, has been
appointed to that job by Michigan governor Rick Snyder, a
Orr began his tenure in Detroit on Monday, and the lawsuit
comes as he begins to form plans to help Detroit overcome $14
billion in long-term debt and liabilities, and a fiscal-year
deficit expected to reach $100 million.
Detroit is the largest of six cities, including Pontiac and
Flint, where emergency managers have been appointed.
Snyder, speaking to reporters on Thursday, said the lawsuit
was "part of democracy" and added, "our track record is pretty
good in winning lawsuits."
Orr's spokesman, Bill Nowling, declined to comment. He said
Orr would "make any response through legal counsel in court."
Herb Sanders, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit,
said at a rally outside the federal courthouse that the new law
"is one of the most egregious pieces of legislation in recent
"The governor can arbitrarily determine what communities
will have a democratic form of government and what communities
will have a dictator. We now have a dictatorship in Detroit,"
Elected officials from Benton Harbor, a group of Baptist
preachers from Detroit, board members of the Detroit Public
Schools and representatives from the American Federation of
State, County and Municipal Employees were among those named as
plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Snyder and the state's treasurer,
Andrew Dillon, a Democrat, were named as defendants.
About 75 protesters entered the Coleman A. Young Municipal
Center at Noon, singing protest songs, chanting "No Justice, No
Peace," and blocking the main public access to city hall, where
Orr's new office is located.
Earlier, about 150 protesters rallied in front of the
courthouse before some marched to the Young Center a few blocks
away. Among those attending the rally were national civil rights
leader, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Lon Johnson, the head of the
Michigan Democratic Party.
"There will be a threat to everyone in this nation if the
emergency management of Detroit stands," Sharpton said.
Emergency managers in Michigan are given broad power,
including the right to void labor contracts.
The new law, called Public Act 436, was passed by the
Republican-controlled Michigan legislature and signed by Snyder
in December. It replaced another law that was overturned by the
state's voters in a November referendum.
The lawsuit said the new law is weighted against the state's
"There is no question that Michigan's emergency manager laws
have disproportionately impacted the state's population of
citizens from African-American descent," it said.
About 83 percent of Detroit's 700,000 residents are black.
Sanders said just over half of Michigan's black residents are
living in cities under the control of an emergency manager.