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Protesters swarm Mich. Capitol on labor bills

Corey Williams and Todd Richmond, Associated Press

Protesters gather for a rally in the rotunda at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Thousands of protesters infuriated by efforts to dilute the power of organized labor swarmed the Michigan Capitol on Tuesday as Republicans voted to make financial support of unions voluntary.

Union members and their allies came from all corners of the state to express disgust at the right-to-work legislation. They filled the Capitol Rotunda, beat drums and loudly chanted pro-union slogans while House lawmakers put finishing touches on legislation.

Michigan State Police used pepper spray to subdue a protester outside the Capitol who tried to pull a female trooper into a crowd. There was no arrest in that incident, but two people were arrested nearby when they tried to get into a state building named for former Gov. George Romney, Capt. Harold Love said.

Elsewhere, a big tent erected on the Capitol grounds for supporters of the legislation collapsed. There were no injuries, Love said.

The crowds were full of teachers, retirees and blue-collar workers in hardhats. Republicans who control the Legislature sent the right-to-work legislation to Gov. Rick Snyder, a fellow Republican.

Supporters said it will attract more business to Michigan and give workers freedom to skip the union. Opponents said it would lower wages and divide labor and management.

Terry O'Sullivan, general president of the Labor International Union of North America, told a rally that lawmakers who vote in favor will be targeted.

"We are going to take you on and take you out," he said.

Edward DeRocher, a 50-year-old carpenter from Walled Lake, held a sign that said, "One Tough Turd," a commentary on Snyder's 2010 election slogan, "One Tough Nerd." Inflatable rats were displayed, poking fun at Snyder and GOP leaders.

"This is redistribution of wealth from us working-class people to the more fortunate," DeRocher said.