Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, December 15, 2005
Partisan politics and mob rule were the order of the day as the state Board of Canvassers’ four members on Wednesday failed — again and despite a court order — to approve an anti-affirmative action proposal for the 2006 ballot.
In October, the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered the canvassers to place the initiative on the ballot because it had far more than the necessary 317,757 signatures.
But on Wednesday, after the meeting was repeatedly disrupted by about 250 rowdy Detroit high school students and the group By Any Means Necessary, the board could muster only two votes — Republicans Lyn Bankes and Katherine DeGrow — to comply with the court order.
The students and other protesters yelled, “They say Jim Crow. We say, hell no,” when the board first attempted to vote around noon.
About 50 students advanced toward the board, knocking over a table before being stopped by Lansing police. Others jumped on chairs and stomped their feet. Board members adjourned the meeting for two hours.
When the board reconvened, only about 40 students and protesters returned but still disrupted the meeting with catcalls and shouts at board members to “just walk out.”
“This has been a victory of mob rule,” said Chris Thomas, director of elections for the Michigan Secretary of State. “Never before have I seen such absolutely incredible and unprofessional behavior from lawyers urging this disruption. They used these children as pawns.”
After being urged by the crowd, including an unidentified man who said: “Be a black man about this, please,” Democrat Paul Mitchell, the only African American on the board, voted against placing the proposal on the ballot. Democrat Doyle O’Connor did not vote.
Three votes were needed to put the measure on the ballot. Supporters of the ballot proposal asked the Michigan Court of Appeals later Wednesday to find the board in contempt.
Shanta Driver, a spokeswoman for BAMN, said the two busloads of Detroit students went because they knew their futures depended on the board’s actions.
“We knew that with enough pressure that it wasn’t going to get on the ballot,” said Johnathan Crutcher, a 16-year-old junior at Cody High School.
Such comments incited the largely African-American crowd, who repeatedly invoked the name of the late civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks.
DeGrow, the Board of Canvassers chairwoman, rued the day’s events. “This board did not do the people’s business today,” she said.