By Jim Hagerty
MARQUETTE, Mich. — A group of graduating seniors and others in attendance at Northern Michigan University’s spring commencement say they will stand and turn their backs on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in protest of the Flint drinking water crisis.
According to NMU’s student newspaper, The North Wind, members of Flint Rising, a coalition that helps Flint residents affected by the crisis, will also be in attendance at the May 5 ceremony. The group has invited Marquette residents and others around the state to attend and protest Snyder, who was announced as commencement speaker in February.
“It is an honor for me, and Flint Rising to stand in solidarity with the NMU students,” Flint Rising’s Gina Luster said in a press release. “This is the type of courage and integrity that it takes to move the State of Michigan from under the dark cloud that Snyder and his administration has left on our beautiful state.“Let’s not give a man a platform to speak at their commencement, who not only poisoned an entire city, but denied and lied about the role he had in it.”
Student organizer Nathan Frischkorn told The North Wind that the protest will be orderly and is not aimed to disrupt the ceremony.
“As a group, we’re not going to be booing. We’re not going to be holding signs, or walking out or any of that sort of thing,” Frischkorn said. “It’s a way to speak through silence.”
Frischkorn said the protest will begin at 8:30 a.m., along Presque Isle and Fair avenues, near the entrances to the Superior Dome, where commencement will be held at 10 a.m.
University officials, including NMU Public Safety, are encouraging students to protest if they wish to do so, while stressing that safety will be a primary concern.
“Our intent is to work with that group and make sure everybody is safe,” Public Safety Director Mike Bath said. “That’s our job as the police department to make sure everyone is safe, and that they enjoy their time at graduation.”
Bath said this spring’s graduating class is larger than previous ones, and as a result, there will be a bigger police presence during commencement. He added that protesters are not permitted to block traffic or the Superior Dome. N.
Editor’s note: Jim Hagerty is a 1995 graduate of Northern Michigan University.