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Snyder is ‘strangling democracy,’ participants at pre-graduation rally in Ann Arbor say, 4/30/11

Haslett, Mich. fifth grader Lexie Salazar speaks this morning at a rally to protest Gov. Rick Snyder's proposals.

By: Nathan Bomey

Fifth grader Lexie Salazar told a rally of protesters this morning in Ann Arbor she’s afraid Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget cuts will make it harder for her to become a zoologist.“

I love animals and I think taking care of them would make a great career,” she told the crowd. “If Gov. Snyder makes these cuts in education, my parents will have to pay a lot more money for me to become a zoologist. My mom and dad are both college graduates, and they want me to go to college.

But we’re not a rich family and I have three brothers who want to go to college too.”She added: “If I don’t have a education, how am I going to be a zoologist?

Lexie was one of the most popular speakers this morning at Pioneer High School’s football stadium, where about 1,000 people gathered to protest Snyder’s budget cuts and policies. Snyder is set to deliver the University of Michigan’s spring commencement address across the street at Michigan Stadium.

“My mom told me that my school might not be able to do things like study at the zoo anymore,” Lexie said. “She also told me there might be (more) kids in my class and we (won't) have the proper equipment to let us learn. That’s not right.”

The crowd, which is dominated by union members, teachers and seniors, responded with an impromptu chant: “That’s not right! That’s not right! That’s not right!”

Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers union, was a surprise guest at the rally. He criticized Snyder’s proposal to adopt a phased-in tax on pensions.

“People have worked their whole lives and gotten a modest pension and now this governor wants to tax that pension. Is that right?” King said.

“What we’re most angry about is all of this is being done to benefit a very small minority.”

Matt Schroeder, president of the Ann Arbor firefighters union, decried attacks on collective bargaining right and cuts to state revenue sharing that he said are forcing cities to lay off firefighters and ask employees to take pay cuts while paying more for health care.

"We are being vilified and bullied by the politicos. We can't stand this any longer," Schroeder said.

"People who work for a living deserve a good living." State Rep. Jeff Irwin and Sen. Rebekah Warren, both Ann Arbor Democrats, spoke at today's rally. Warren criticized the "bad budgets and horrible tax policy" coming out of Lansing and encouraged the crowd to work to recall politicians who don't share their values. "We have work to do," she told the crowd. "These are not our values."

Elizabeth Axelson, secretary of the lecturers' employee organization at U-M, led the crowd in a chant of "Go blue! Go fairness! Go justice!"

U-M senior graduate Zach Goldsmith, who organized a protest in March against the university’s decision to appoint Snyder as speaker, told protesters that “democracy continues to be strangled.”

“I’ve learned that the moderate Republican Rick Snyder is far from moderate indeed,” Goldsmith said. “His anti-Democratic reactions as governor of our state have ripped away his mask and revealed him for what he is.

I’m here to say enough to Gov. Snyder and to say loud and clear, Gov. Snyder does not speak for me.”

Tim Smith, a lecturer in the aerospace engineering program at U-M, was one of the many who carried protest signs at the rally. His sign read "Nerds Against Snyder." "It's not really something I do, being politically active, but Snyder actually managed to get me to the point of doing it," Smith said in an interview.

"I think the thing that really upsets me is the emergency manager law, the idea that by governmental fiat we can override local elected officials and dissolve local government."


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