Eastern Market kicks out volunteer collecting signatures to remove Gov. Snyder

Eastern Market
Eastern Market in Detroit.

By Michael Betzold
Motor City Muckraker

On Saturday I was kicked out of Eastern Market for trying to get signatures on “Recall Snyder” petitions.

Though I had done the same activity in previous weeks at the same outdoor spot between the covered sheds and was complying with the previous instructions of market security not to impede the flow of shoppers, I was told within an hour of beginning my efforts that the rules had changed.

Photos by Steve Neavling.
Photos by Steve Neavling.

For this weekend and next, security personnel told me, the rules were different because of the greater volume of people expected for Mother’s Day weekend and for the annual Flower Day on Sunday, May 15. I was told I could solicit signatures somewhere on the sidewalk on Russell – where there is about a hundredth of the number of passers-by.

This frankly infuriated me.

On the same day, the city announced it’s awarding billionaire Dan Gilbert federally subsidized land at the Eastern Market for a private housing project.

These two weekends are among only three that remain in the 60-day period that we have to gather hundreds of thousands of signatures statewide to get a proposal to recall Snyder on the ballot. And the crowds are exactly why I wanted to be there at the market. But oops, suddenly the rules were changed.

The recall is a gargantuan uphill effort. Last year, the Republican-controlled legislature passed new rules specifying that each city, township, or village has to have its own separate petition sheet, rather than voters in each county being able to share the same page. You can only imagine how much more difficult this makes our task. I carry my own folding file holding the 100 or more sheets that correspond to all the municipalities people at gathering places in metropolitan Detroit are registered to vote in.

Despite this logistical nightmare, people are eager to sign the recall petition. I have done this type of work for other political purposes, and the positive response rate for this petition is many times greater than any other cause I’ve ever worked on. It’s easy to get people to sign, but you have to get to them – and the Legislature has also raised the number of signatures needed to reach a nearly impossible target. Nonetheless, I think it’s worth doing. I think it’s important for the people of Michigan to have a way to demonstrate their outrage over what Snyder has wrought.

But what happened to me at Eastern Market fits right in with what the new business-first politics has done to this state and this city. The previous day I had to leave a sidewalk outside of a Secretary of State office because that office – a government facility – was located in a privately owned small shopping center on Mack. And at Eastern Market I learned that our great meeting place for people, food, flowers, and crafts doesn’t belong to the citizens of Detroit and Michigan. It’s also run by a private corporation, as Chief Operating Officer Emma Velasco explained to me after she was summoned to help security guards persuade me to leave. She also had bogus arguments about public safety and big crowds threatened by an old man with a clipboard offering market customers a service they’re eager to have. She also said the recall campaign can’t buy any space to set up a table, though “community groups” like the Girl Scouts can. Cookies before democracy, you see.

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit Velasco and her security team turned me into a raving lunatic shouting about how I was being deprived of my constitutional rights to free speech and to petition fellow citizens to redress my grievances. In a city where the most precious and beautiful – dare I say sacred? – piece of public land has been turned into a seasonal Grand Prix race track under state government control, it’s clear to me that the public isn’t going to have any public space much longer. It’s all being sold off to private interests so that corporations can exercise money – their own free speech.

I’ll be at the market next weekend somewhere, even if it’s on a public sidewalk. That is, unless someone purchases the sidewalk by then. And I’ll be back between the sheds again on the 21st – unless by some unimaginable coincidence the rules happen to change once again without notice. You never know, because democracy is on sale these days. It’s a hot item. Its increasing scarcity adds a lot to its value.

Michael Betzold

Michael Betzold is a former Free Press reporter and longtime area freelance journalist. He wrote Queen of Diamonds, a history of Tiger Stadium. He lives on Detroit’s east side.

  • falseprophet

    You ever think most people dont agree with you. Some people just want to shop for flowers instead of listening to a D-Bag shout about how bad Snyder is. Just like a left wing tool to assume everybody agrees with you.

    • Dongald Trumpenis

      Who says he was shouting? He just had his sign and petitions.

      • maggiemay

        He said he “turned into a raving lunatic”. I assume that means shouting.

        • Dongald Trumpenis

          Try thinking. The rent-a-cops told him to leave BEFORE he lost his temper, he wasn’t “carrying on” before that point.

          • maggiemay

            So what? People want to buy their flowers and vegetables, not be approached by some asshole with a cause. He went ballistic when he was asked to leave. What’s the problem, just leave already.

          • Dongald Trumpenis

            Construct your own narrative if you must.

          • Dongald Trumpenis

            Construct your own narrative if you must.

      • maggiemay

        He said he “turned into a raving lunatic”. I assume that means shouting.

    • Dongald Trumpenis

      Who says he was shouting? He just had his sign and petitions.

  • Kwame Gomez

    You, sir, sound like a person throwing a tantrum after they didn’t get their way – all the while trying to smear the reputation of both a person and organization. Grow the fuck up.

    • Dongald Trumpenis

      And you sound like a Snyder ass-kisser.

      • Kwame Gomez

        not really, because I want him out of office. I just don’t whine.

        • Dongald Trumpenis

          I don’t blame that guy for losing it. You have a fascist dictator running the state, and at every level he has toadies maintaining his hold on Democracy.

          This is a nightmare scenario.

          • Kwame Gomez

            I blame anyone for losing it. Self control is a must have quality. You’re blaming Snyder and his toadies for his behavior. Grow some balls and accept personal responsibility.

          • Dongald Trumpenis

            Like Snyder did in his Flint Water Fiasco non-apology?

            Snyder is a foul, subhuman coward and stooge.

          • Dongald Trumpenis

            Like Snyder did in his Flint Water Fiasco non-apology?

            Snyder is a foul, subhuman coward and stooge.

          • falseprophet

            Your president says the water is safe… Whats the problem. Did the people who ran Flint apologize?

          • Harry Palmer

            Complaining about other’s lack of “self control”, shows a lack of self control…

          • Kwame Gomez

            how so? Not complaining either. Merely making a point that Trumpenis is justifying Betzold’s behavior by putting the blame on Snyder.

          • Kwame Gomez

            I blame anyone for losing it. Self control is a must have quality. You’re blaming Snyder and his toadies for his behavior. Grow some balls and accept personal responsibility.

          • falseprophet

            I would rather have an intelligent person running the state than a twit Canadian! Thank god Snyder stepped in and saved this state from years of democrat clowns.

          • Trexinmichigan

            Good luck with that fantasy doofus. The current brain donor will cost this State millions upon millions for his short attention span and inability to pick up a clue.

  • maggiemay

    Get over it, it’s private property. They can choose who’s allowed on it and for what purpose. You weren’t deprived of anything, you just weren’t chosen.

  • maggiemay

    Get over it, it’s private property. They can choose who’s allowed on it and for what purpose. You weren’t deprived of anything, you just weren’t chosen.

    • I believe the poverty is owned by the City of Detroit ( making it public property) and management by the Eastern Market Corporation a 501c3.. which is public / private partnership… Tom Lewand who is listed as the Chairman of the Eastern Market Corporation is a city employee.

      • Kwame Gomez

        the poverty?

      • maggiemay

        Check your facts, it’s a private corporation (Eastern Market Corporation) managed by a board of directors one of whom happens to be a city employee. Being a 501c3 corporation has nothing to do with it, it’s still private property. Same as the Red Cross, Cancer Society, Ronald McDonald House. All 501c’s, all private property.

      • javierjuanmanuel

        501c3 is non profit, not public private partnership.

        If the city owns it, and rents it, then they can kick you off.

        Do you know if the EMC rents the land ?

        • It appears the the EMC manages the Market on behalf of the City, much like how Detroit 300 manages Campus Martius Park and the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy manages the Detroit International Riverfront.

          Even the City of Detroit Financial report refers to EDC as a “public – private umbrella organization”

          Does the EDC pay rent to the city?, I have not seen any document that reports any rental agreement between the City of Detroit and EDC.

          Here something I did find.

          On July 1, 2006 the City entered into an agreement with the Eastern Market Corporation, a Michigan nonprofit corporation, to manage, operate and promote the Eastern Market. The Eastern Market Corporation is a non-profit, public-private- “umbrella organization” created to equally include representatives of the City of Detroit, Eastern Market stakeholders and persons with a special interest in the market, including corporate and foundation contributors. The City retains ownership of the public areas of the Eastern Market and has membership on the Board of Directors of the Eastern Market Corporation.

          http://www.detroitmi.gov/Portals/0/docs/budgetdept/2009-10%20through%202013-14/Proposed%20Capital%20Agenda_2008_bookmarked.pdf

          City of Detroit, Michigan COMPREHENSIVE ANNUAL FINANCIAL REPORT For the Year Ended June 30, 2014

          Eastern Market Corporation (EMC)* – The EMC was established to develop, maintain, and promote the Eastern Market district of the City. The EMC manages the market in the City known as Eastern Market. The EMC is a legally separate entity. However, the City appoints the voting majority of the Board Members and may impose its will. The EMC is primarily funded by means of private grants and contributions.

          http://www.detroitmi.gov/Portals/0/docs/finance/cafr/Final%20CAFR.pdf

  • Dongald Trumpenis

    I guess I’ll have to find Mr. Betzold and sign that petition.

  • Johanson Charles Gallery

    The Eastern Market Corporation, has the control ONLY of the property that the Sheds are located on. They do not have jurisdiction of the remaining property.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      He knew that, it does not make as good a story.

    • Jessica Lau

      liberals like to cry

    • Jessica Lau

      liberals like to cry