Protesters target Schuette outside of GOP gubernatorial debate in Grand Rapids

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Members of the Service Employees International Union gather outside the first Republican Gubernatorial Primary Debate on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, in Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids — Protesters outside the Republican gubernatorial primary debate here Wednesday focused their discontent chiefly on Republican governor hopeful Bill Schuette.

About two dozen people carried signs calling the attorney general a “health care killer” and chanted “Schuette, Schuette, you can’t hide; we can see your greedy side.”

TyJuan Thirdgill said the group was directing their concerns toward Schuette, who they see as the GOP candidate likely to emerge victorious from the August primary.

The demonstrators, largely made up of members of the Service Employees International Union, were concerned about Schuette’s support for legislation that would require Medicaid recipients to be employed at least 29 hours a week, said Thirdgill, a 19-year-old Muskegon man.

“Beyond this bill, Schuette stood against (Gov. Rick) Snyder when he expanded Medicaid to many” in 2013, Thirdgill said.

Schuette and fellow candidates Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Saginaw obstetrician Jim Hines and Sen. Patrick Colbeck faced off in the first GOP debate at the WOOD-TV studio in Grand Rapids. 

As raindrops began to fall outside the Grand Rapids TV station, Yolonda Jones prepared to speak to the group of protesters about what she interprets as the potential loss of her insurance under the proposed work requirements. The 48-year-old Flint woman, a McDonald’s employee, said she’s unable to work the required number of hours because of eye and shoulder injuries.

“I’m going to need that Medicaid,” Jones said. “Its not just me. It’s a lot of people that need Medicaid that depend on it.”


Military veteran Amanda Leanne Brunzell carried a sign denouncing Schuette’s treatment of veterans.

Brunzell, a 34-year-old Grand Rapids resident and former member of the U.S. Navy, said Schuette supported privatization at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, then waited too long to prosecute employees following issues at the home.

Schuette defended the state in a 2011 lawsuit seeking to stop the privatization. He announced criminal charges in July against former caregivers at the state-run facility, alleging they’d falsified records to cover up neglect at the facility.

“Bill Schuette is not an ally to veterans,” said Brunzell, who is supporting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed. “And when he goes out and campaigns and uses us as political props it feels very jaded because he hasn’t done anything positive for veterans.”

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