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Published January 11, 2004
Petition on race policy to begin
Group seeks to end affirmative action in state

By O. Brand-Williams
Special to the State Journal

FARMINGTON HILLS - Supporters of a campaign to outlaw affirmative action in education and in local and state government will kick off a petition drive Monday to put the question on the November ballot.

Organizers of the effort, called the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, say their goal is to collect the signatures of at least 400,000 registered voters. The minimum required is 319,000, and petitions must be filed by July 6.

"We're going to collect as many as we can using volunteers and paid petition gatherers," said State Rep. Leon Drolet, a Macomb County Republican who is co-chairing the petition drive.

The measure, a proposed amendment to the Michigan Constitution, would ask voters whether race, color, gender, ethnicity or national origin should play a role in state and local governments and in admission to public colleges and universities.

Drolet's group is backed by Ward Connerly, a California businessman who led similar, successful efforts in California and the state of Washington.

Detroiter Gregory Creswell, a 46-year-old father of two, is working for the amendment.

"I believe it is wrong for the government and politicians to dictate to an employer who they must or must not hire - just as I believe Jim Crow is immoral and just as I believe apartheid in South Africa was immoral," said Creswell.

"(People) assume that I should be for racial preferences, especially when it comes to the government," he said referring to his race. Creswell is black.

"As a father, I do not want the government to look at our children as a member of a race. I want them to look at them as individuals and for their merits."

Also this week, opponents of the proposed amendment will launch their own efforts to block the constitutional amendment and retain affirmative action programs.

Citizens for a United Michigan, a broad coalition that includes religious, civil rights and business leaders, will hold a news conference in Lansing on Tuesday to discuss their strategy.

"We want to let the public know we're here," said Gen. Michael Rice, former deputy director of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and head of Citizens for a United Michigan. "Our mission initially is to do what we can do to prevent this.

"Through this organization, we want to get the word out to folks that before you (sign the petition), try to understand what you are actually signing. This is a 400-word amendment being added to our state constitution by people from out of state."

Rice said part of the group's plan is to educate the public about the measure and to "try to prevent this thing from becoming a ballot proposal."

Contact O. Brand-Williams of the Detroit News at (313) 222-2690 or

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