LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the state Capitol Tuesday night, demanding accountability from Gov. Rick Snyder amid the Flint water crisis.
Protesters were so loud outside the building that some said they could be heard inside the House chamber as the governor delivered his annual State of the State address.
Outside, a boisterous crowd chanted “What do we want? Clean water! When do we want it? Now!” along with “Hey hey, ho ho, Snyder’s got to go” in the hours leading up to and during the governor’s speech.
“I’m pretty pissed off,” protester Alex Leafi told 24 Hour News 8.
Leafi, sporting a knit hat that simply read ‘Flint,’ made the drive from there for Tuesday night’s rally.
“There’s people losing their hair. There’s people getting skin diseases. There’s people getting Legionnaire’s disease. There’s all kinds of stuff happening in the city of Flint and apparently this guy (Snyder) doesn’t care. So we’re here to make sure he starts caring — or he’s got to go,” Leafi said.
Rally organizers with Progress Michigan bused in protesters from Flint and Detroit.
The demonstrations were dramatic, some people even turning the Capitol lawn into a mini-graveyard, thrusting crosses into the ground.
“It is morbid,” Julia Cuneo said of the display she set out for the protest. “The emergency manager law is morbid. What we know is that a lot of people have lost their lives and we are here today — we wanted to bring their presence.”
An emergency manager was in control of Flint when it switched its water source from the Detroit system to the Flint River, which caused damage to the city’s pipes and led to the lead contamination the city’s dealing with now.
The protesters’ chants were colorful and their demands varied. Some went as far as to say Snyder should be arrested. Others argued he should just resign over his administration’s handling of the crisis.
Those who wanted the governor to release his emails regarding the water emergency got their wish — the governor says he’ll do it Wednesday even though Michigan law exempts him from requests for public access to information. But they say that’s just the beginning.
“I think that we do need to know for sure what he knew and when he knew it, and it sounds like we may able to find that out in those emails. Certainly I think this is a man-made crisis and resignation wouldn’t be out of the question,” Lonnie Scott, the executive director of Progress Michigan, told 24 Hour News 8.
“It’s a step in the right direction and we certainly are happy to take a look at those emails, but I believe that it’s not enough until he ends the (governor FOIA) exemption completely and we have access to all the emails from his legislature,” Scott added.
Also spending the evening outside of the Capitol rather than inside was Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon. Dillon, of Grand Rapids, didn’t go as far as to say Snyder should resign. He said the first order of business should be accessing and reviewing Snyder’s emails regarding the water crisis.
“We need to know what he knew — when he knew it. We need to know why decisions weren’t made to protect citizens in Flint. And we need to do that so we can get to the bottom of this situation so it doesn’t happen again,” Dillon said.