Snyder honor draws protests at WSU board meeting

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Some Metro Detroiters frustrated with Gov. Rick Snyder over the Flint water crisis and other issues turned out Friday for a Wayne State University Board of Governors meeting, angry over a recognition they believed the school was involved in.

The dozens of demonstrators with the Marcus Garvey Movement/New Black Panther Nation and Defenders of Truth and Justice filled a room at the school’s McGregor Memorial Conference Center on Friday afternoon, local activist Malik Shabazz said. They were blasting Snyder’s inclusion as one of Crain’s 2015 Newsmakers of the Year after spotting a promotional flier showing him as an honoree and Wayne State as a sponsor for an upcoming luncheon, Shabazz said.

The Feb. 9 event at Detroit’s MotorCity Casino Hotel is set to recognize business luminaries Mike and Christopher Ilitch “for their work building the District Detroit, which will be anchored by the new Red Wings arena, and for funding the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University,” according to Crain’s website.

Crain’s is naming the Ilitches the top Newsmakers of the Year for 2015. Snyder was among the nine others the publication also listed as Newsmakers “for reasons ranging from M&A deals to economic development,” according to the website.

“Gov. Snyder should not be honored for anything,” Shabazz said Friday night. “He should be resigned and be prosecuted. We want the governor out of office.”

Matt Lockwood, a spokesman for the university, said the protest “really just came out of thin air as far as we were concerned” since the board was not scheduled to vote or address anything related to the Crain’s luncheon during the Friday meeting.

He said the school is just one of the event sponsors and was not motivated by Snyder. Wayne State bought a table and plans to attend to toast the Ilitches, he said. The couple last year donated $40 million to help build its new business school in the planned Detroit Red Wings arena and surrounding 45-block entertainment district. It was the largest in the university’s history and one of the top 10 gifts in the country ever given to a public business school.

Reached late Friday, the governor’s spokesman Dave Murray said: “Gov. Snyder’s selection is recognition of Michigan’s successful reinvention — and the hard of work of many people. We’ve made great progress in our state, and we have more work to do. Right now, we are focused on the people of Flint, and making sure they have the assistance they need to recover from a failure of government at all levels — state, local and federal.

“We understand that some people are frustrated. But this is a time when people are pulling together to help Flint — reflected by the Legislature’s unanimous vote to invest $28 million on a variety of pathways to address the city’s challenges.”