LANSING, Mich. (AP) -
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Protesters packing the state Capitol in Lansing are chanting and whooping as lawmakers prepare to take final votes on divisive right-to-work bills.
Hundreds of demonstrators packed all four levels of the rotunda Tuesday, chanting "Union!" and" What's disgusting? Union-busting!"
They stomped their feet and banged together hard hats.
The noise was deafening. At one point the crowd began loudly roaring, applauding themselves as the decibel levels grew.
A group of about 20 state troopers blocked the Senate chamber. Officers stared straight ahead, expressionless, as the crowd heckled them, demanding to be let in and shouting: "You're next."
The scene was calmer outside the House chamber, where another group of state police blocked the room. About a dozen protesters clustered around troopers, one mugging for a snapshot with an expressionless officer.
A large tent set up on the lawn in front of the Capitol collapsed during the protest. Nobody was trapped underneath or injured. Law enforcement officials came to the scene, some on horses, to break-up the crowd that got rowdy for a short time, as small scuffles occurred between protestors.
State troopers armed with tear gas canisters, pepper spray and batons are among dozens of officers guarding the Capitol in Lansing as the right-to-work battle heats up in Michigan.
About 20 troopers alone were assembled in front the House chamber doors on Tuesday as protesters gathered in the rotunda area and hallways in anticipation that lawmakers would finalize divisive right-to-work legislation.
Stomping protesters chanted, "No justice. No Peace" and "Shut it down."
Several of the troopers in front of the House doors were armed with tear gas canisters, pepper spray and batons.
Several thousand union members gathered to protest so-called right-to-work legislation in Michigan have begun a three-block walk to the state Capitol.
A block-and-a-half mass including autoworkers, sheet metal workers, machinists, and electrical workers chanting "We are the union, the mighty, might union" left the Lansing Center Tuesday morning , en route to City hall, across from the Capitol. The coalition of 33 unions was expected to mass outside the Capitol at 10:30 a.m.
Crowds of protesters are shouting slogans such as "No Justice, no peace" and "Hey hey, ho ho, right to work has got to go." The hallways and rotunda area are protected by dozens of state police armed with riot clubs.
Spectators lined up in the dark Tuesday morning before the building opened, shouting and stomping their feet in below-freezing temperatures.
Four large inflatable toy rats were set up on the Capitol lawn. They bore the names of Gov. Rick Snyder, House Speaker Jase Bolger, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and Dick DeVos, a Grand Rapids businessman whom union leaders believe is pushing the right-to-work bills.
A top union official has vowed to wage "war" against those moving quickly to pass divisive right-to-work legislation in the Michigan Legislature.
Terry O'Sullivan, general president of the Labor International Union of North America, said during a public rally held Tuesday the legislation is "dead on arrival." He also told elected officials who support the measure that "we are going to take you on and take you out."
Sixty-one-year-old Lindsey Curtis of Flint says she is inspired by the gathering after fearing "unions had just rolled over." The retired police identification technician and water department meter reader says she hopes Gov. Rick Snyder "hears the message."
Republican lawmakers quickly moved legislation through the House and Senate in a single day last week.
State police have set up guard outside every Michigan Capitol entrance as lawmakers prepare to push through right-to-work legislation.
Dozens of union members and supporters waited around building Tuesday morning and several hundred more are clustered on the sidewalks dressed in hard hats and coveralls.
Fifty-seven-year-old Valerie Constance is a Wayne County Community College District developmental reading instructor and member or the American Federation of Teachers. She sat on the Capitol steps with a sign shaped like a tombstone. It read: "Here lies democracy."
Sue Brown is a 50-year-old pipefitter from Midland. She said she's not in a union, but she's convinced that right-to-work legislation weakens unions' powers, leading to lower wages for everyone. She says unions including the United Auto Workers "created the middle class."
Even with the outcome considered a foregone conclusion, the heated battle over right-to-work legislation in the traditional union bastion of Michigan shows no sign of cooling.
Authorities in Lansing are bracing for an onslaught of demonstrators Tuesday at the Michigan Capitol as the Legislature reconvenes for what could be final votes on bills.
If it is passed
and signed into law, Michigan would become the 24th right-to-work state, banning requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services.
Democratic lawmakers and union backers concede they have little chance of stopping tide, given the Republican-dominated Legislature and GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, who has pledged to sign the measure into law.
Foes of the law, including President Barack Obama, are trying to keep the spotlight on the fight.
Several streets are closed around the Capitol --
W. Ottawa Street, from N. Walnut Street to N. Washington Square
Walnut Street, from W. Ottawa Street to W. Washtenaw Street
W. Allegan Street, from S. Pine Street to S. Capitol Avenue
S. Capitol Avenue, from W. Ionia Street to W. Allegan Street
E. Michigan Avenue, from S. Capitol Avenue to S. Grand Avenue
9 a.m. -- Protestors are expected to march from Michigan Avenue to the Capitol
10 a.m. -- House goes into session (vote could happen any time after this)
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