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Posted on Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 2 p.m.

Bill Riney climbs onto Washtenaw County Administration Building in one-man protest against unemployment

By Amalie Nash

Updated at 2 p.m. with new details.

Ypsilanti Township resident Bill Riney, who made an unsuccessful run for the state's 54th District seat in the August primary, climbed onto the Washtenaw County Administration Building Monday to stage a protest that lasted more than 12 hours.

Washtenaw County Sheriff's spokesman Derrick Jackson said it appears Riney used a ladder to get to the top of the building, and pulled the ladder up with him. He called police to report he was up there at about 5:30 p.m., but it's unclear exactly when he got onto the building, Jackson said.

Riney was eventually convinced to come down at about 6:40 a.m. today and was arrested, Jackson said.

Police said Riney came prepared for the protest - he brought a tent, sleeping bag, computer, water and other items onto the roof with him.

Thumbnail image for Bill_Riney_July_2010_2.jpg

Bill Riney is shown in this July file photo as he was campaigning for state office.

On Monday, Riney told WDIV by phone that he was taking a stand to help the unemployed.

"I care and love other people. I want to help them find jobs. I want them to have a better life," he told the TV station.

During the protest, officers from the Sheriff's Department, Ann Arbor Police, Ann Arbor Fire Department, Huron Valley Ambulance, crisis negotiation team and SWAT responded to the scene.

"We didn't know what his intentions were and needed to make sure to keep the community safe," Jackson said.

Around 5:50 a.m. today, officers climbed onto the building to talk to Riney face-to-face and search his belongings to make sure he didn't have any weapons, Jackson said. After about 90 minutes of talking, Riney agreed to come down on his own and was arrested without incident, Jackson said.

Riney complained of chest pain and was taken to a local hospital for evaluation, Jackson said. He was then expected to be transferred into the custody of the Sheriff's Department.

Prosecutors will review the case to determine possible criminal charges. Jackson said police are seeking trespassing charges, at a minimum. He said any decision on repaying the county for the resources used during the incident would be made during the court process.

This isn't the first time Riney, 56, has staged a one-man protest.

In June 2009 and again last November, Riney climbed into trees on his property roughly 30 feet off the ground to prevent utility company employees from chopping down white pine trees in his Edison Avenue yard. Company officials said the trees interfered with power lines.

Ultimately, Riney and International Transmission Company came to an agreement that would allow the company to cut the trees in the easement. Riney received roughly $10,000, and the company was required to reseed the turf and repair damage to the grounds.

Riney, known by many as the "The Free Hot Dog Man" earned a reputation two years ago as "The Obama Hot Dog Man" for taking his mobile hot dog operation into neighborhoods across Southeast Michigan during the Obama campaign.

In the August primary, Riney was one of six candidates vying for the Democratic nomination to replace Alma Wheeler Smith in the state House of Representatives. David Rutledge won with 38 percent of the vote, while Riney came in third with 13 percent.



Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 9:27 p.m.

LOL this is my friends dad


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 1:15 p.m.

I have known Bill Riney for years. We grew up in the same town and I can say that though Bill's methods may seem a bit unorthodox to some, he is a man of integrity with more guts than most people. Who else would do what he did? It's because he cares. When he speaks, he means what he says and when most people would sit back and gripe, he's a doer. I know his entire family. He was bred well, a leader, a team player, a voice. His father was the same. Respectable. He knows that if you attract attention people will listen. Bill would never do anyone any harm. I would support him 110% -Steve Laginess


Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 8:03 p.m.

It was not his desire to have those resources used on him. It does however, seem that If anyone wanted to waste city resources they would have no trouble, for the city is like a large, stupid, beast, that responds to "emergencies" the same way every time. I'm going to go climb on a building and waste city resources. Cool.

mike from saline

Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 6:02 p.m.

@ Scott, you asked the question, "Isn't politically directed loaning part of what got us int trouble in the first place? answere; No! It wasn't part of the problem, it was the problem... period.


Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 5:34 p.m.

Roofs should be illegal in Ann Arbor. If that roof wasn't there, then Bill couldn't have climbed on to it. Also, all of the suicidal students wouldn't be able to jump from them if we had no roofs in Ann Arbor. Here's another topic for City Council to mull over. All roofs must be so steep, that no one could possibly climb on them. I'm a genius.


Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 2:04 p.m.

@jcj The topic of discussion is one man's non-violent protest against a major issue facing this country today. Slashing tires, and violent crimes are another topic, entirely.


Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 12:16 p.m.

It is a global world, if your job moved oversees you are always welcome to follow it.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 10:26 p.m.

Given that it was merely one guy going up for a brief climb on a holiday with zero advance notice, it tuned out to be pretty dang effective. It certainly got a bit of media attention throughout the region. And look at the perturbed righties falling out of the woodwork over this. All in a huff over Riney's Labor are the apologists and sycophants for the manufacturers and corporations who serenely move U.S. employment overseas in order to secure higher profit margins. How dare one individual so openly complain about the superior overlords who see our jobs as expendable pawn pieces in the great chess game of international capital. Only a nut would think that mass job loss isn't great for American business. As someone suggested above,what if hundreds were to do actions similar in character to what Bill did? What if everyone did their action at the same time all over the downtown area? That would make for a very interesting and assertive public event, one that might even be enough to prod local and regional public officials into bettering their priorities a little more.

Jim Pryce

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 9:30 p.m.

As Barney Fife said about Earnest T. Bass- That guy is some kind of nut.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 8:39 p.m.

"clueless no-nothings" CNN?

Stuart Brown

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 8:28 p.m.

To all the sluggo's out there who what Mr. Bill to be punished to the max extent possible: get a life! You are probably the same people who voted to keep Hieftje and his pro-developer friends in power. How come you same folks don't complain when your tax dollars are thrown away on underground parking decks, expensive German urinal art at the new city hall extension, free parking for Billion dollar mega corporations (Google), millions for phantom job creation via SPARK, etc? You miss the big stuff then demand every penny back when one of the slaves has the temerity to rattle his chains. Millions for white elephant pet projects, but not one penny for public protest! The people here really have their priorities straight! Send our kids off to Iraq and Afghanistan at the cost of billions of dollars and thousands of lives to fight for the non-freedoms we have here? What a joke! Freedom in America for most people means the right to max out your credit cards at Walmarts and to enjoy all that paid time off when you get laid off so your company can outsource your job to China; so vote Republican, that will send a message to those Washington Elitists! I'm reading a lot of really dumb comments by a lot of clueless no-nothings here!


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 7:45 p.m.

Hey Riney! Do something impressive please! How about a hunger strike? Sit on the steps of the county building for weeks? Those are examples of a protest. What you pulled, was a stunt to gain some celebrity. If anyone knows Riney's mother; could you please tell her to give him more attention. Just think, he actually 13 percent of the vote in the dem. party! WOW!


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 7:31 p.m.

Bill Riney should be congratulated for his courage and commitment to the unemployed. Ann Arbor needs an army of Bill Rineys.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 7:19 p.m.

I have no clue what you are all whining about..Riney did help create jobs: I see many baby sitting jobs were established out of this stunt..


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 7:03 p.m.

@julieswhimsies "Mr. Riney's stunt did at least provoke some dialogue, did it not?" And so does the act of slashing tires or breaking into a home! But I don't think you would advocate those actions because they " did at least provoke some dialogue"! I must have missed any constructive dialogue that had solved or eased the unemployment problem. Most of the dialogue I saw was not very flattering of this action.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 6:57 p.m.

Political resume padding. Lots of free publicity; likely no fines or legal costs. Clever ploy. The formula works; another ploy seems likely...


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 6:56 p.m.

@Cash OK I will take you at your word. But there has to be some accountability when someone breaks the law. No matter how just the cause seems. It is my belief that a responsible person in order to bring their cause (in this case our cause)to light will weigh what the result of their action will be. In this case it seems to have brought more ridicule to Mr Riney than sympathies for the cause. And I believe it was nothing more than an attempt to get his name back in the news. He knew going in (or up in this case) this would not have the least impact on unemployment or what people think about it. He should be responsible for some cost of the emergency personnel he tied up.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 6:43 p.m.

jcj, "Really? If he were a republican standing up for what he believes would you be so proud of him?" Absolutely. I admire the folks who protest abortion day after day walking with signs...even though I totally disagree with them. They are willing to take a stand. As opposed to the rest of the Uninvolved States Of America.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 6:38 p.m.

Mr. Riney's stunt did at least provoke some dialogue, did it not?

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 6:27 p.m.

When people run out on the field during baseball games, they are never shown on television. The feeling is that this policy helps discourage attention-seekers. Riney has gotten enough attention for one lifetime. Please stop writing about him.

John Que

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 6:15 p.m.

Charge him, convict him, fine him and put the money he pays back into the public system. This will help pay the police and other public personal who have to waste time on him. Ironically, that is the only way this person will ease unemployment. What exactly drives such non-productive midnset? For all you that were bumped from the posts, I understand your need to be "explicative".


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 6:14 p.m.

@Cash "I respect people who stand up for what they believe. Courage is so lacking in this country today. People like me, would rather sit behind a keyboard and snipe at those who get off of their duff and take a stand, however difficult." Really? If he were a republican standing up for what he believes would you be so proud of him? If the prosecutor passes on this one it will be just one of many instances of selective prosecution!

free form

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 5:33 p.m.

I love Bill Riney's passion for his causes and I want to believe his heart really is in the right place. His brain, however... I'm not so sure about.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 4:40 p.m.

Two words Mr. Prosecutor: Reckless Endangerment. Couple it with tresspassing and require him to pay first responder fees, too. By the way Mr. Riney, parking your hot dog trailer (usually after making an illegal u-turn) outside of a public event and giving away hot dogs, when there are licensed vendors (read: small businesses) inside said event a few yards away selling food (like ho tdogs) HURTS small business. There are hundreds, or even thousands of ways to draw media attention to the unemployment problem without climbing up on a government building and costing tax payers thousands of dollars through the public safety response. Money that our local police and fire budgets are desperately short of to begin with. Thankfully there wasn't a real emergency requiring a police/fire/emt response while our first responders were tied up with this stunt. How can anyone take you seriously as a candidate when you demonstate so little regard for public resources? Mr. Riney is looking to draw attention to one thing, and that's Mr. Riney.

Stuart Brown

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 3:49 p.m.

Hope I can sit on the jury so I can acquit (if the glove don't fit, you must acquit!) The ghosts of Herbert Hoover people on here asking how sitting on top of the County Building will help the unemployed, here is your answer. The out-sourcing of jobs to China was a government policy that can be reversed with a change in policy. If enough people do the, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" dance, we might just change things for the better.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 3:48 p.m.

I hope he has enough money to pay the police overtime bill.

5c0++ H4d13y

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 3:34 p.m.

So it's "more of the same" then? Yikes!


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 3:28 p.m.

this guy is really doing alot to help the unemployed. He brought a tent and a computer. My he was just looking for a place to squat.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 2:56 p.m.

Scott Hadley, Once again, not lending to small business with excellent credit ratings is the issue. Big banks aren't at 25% of their lending to small business that they said they would be doing to "help the economy" if they got their bailouts. Now off to mail my letters!

Elaine F. Owsley

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 2:50 p.m.

I think the man needs another hobby. He has been "over exposed" in this one.

5c0++ H4d13y

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 2:35 p.m.

And you know this how? Your politics? What other reason could a bank have for not loaning now? Political inconsistencies are amusing to me. Banks are bad because they needed a bailout but then when told to increase their cash reserves they need to ignore that and increase loans because it helps... who? Even if the loan is 100% solid it would still reduce their cash reserves which is what helped them get into trouble. I thought we wanted to have solid banks that would not require bailouts? But then we don't want that when there's an election cycle coming up... ooops I mean unemployment! Isn't politically directed loaning part of what got us into trouble in the first place? Why would we do more of that? Oh! Because we bailed them out and now we can yank their chain for the benefit of... who? The politics or the people? Why not just say it's "for the children" and dare people to oppose us?


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 2:11 p.m.

More Riney news:


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 2:09 p.m.

Scott Hadley, They are refusing loans to small businesses with excellent credit history. Why? Perhaps they like this economy the way it is right now. Ever think of that? Big business would love to control elections...and they sure seem to be trying.

5c0++ H4d13y

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 2:02 p.m.

If banks saw an opportunity to make money by loaning to businesses they would do it. Remember they are oh so greedy. OTOH part of the reason they got into trouble is because they were over extended (leveraged) on MBS and CDOs. So which is it do we want? Politically forced lending that would put us back in the ditch or no more bailouts for greedy wall street that we love to hate but then love when they give us a no money down home loan but then hate when the loan they gave us turns bad and we bail them out? Confused? I am.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 1:52 p.m.

So if I want to protest something, I should decide not to because it might cost tax money? I pay taxes too, and I'm positive Mr. Riney does. Protesting is our *RIGHT*.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 1:49 p.m.

I believe joblessness is so bad right now because the largest banks in this county refuse to lend to help small business grow. Others believe it's another problem. In my mind, we need to push our representatives to do something with the big lenders that got big bailouts and now have turned their backs on small businesses and in turn, the taxpayers who bailed them out. So, Mr Riney may be a laughing stock to some, but the general lack of focus on the real issue here has at least gotten me to write a lot of letters. So, I did a lot of letter writing with a nudge from Mr Riney's protest. I have one vote just as does the CEO of Bank of America.

Tom Teague

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 1:08 p.m.

I'm with Cash on this one. This illustrates a wonderful thing about America. Mr. Riney took a visible -- if odd -- stand against something he feels passionately about. Personally, I wouldn't do what he did, and I don't think it's an effective response to unemployment, but here we all are talking about it, which is another wonderful thing about America. Back in the day when we used the term "civil disobedience" for things like this, one of the tenets was that breaking the law to make a statement or address a wrong was still breaking the law and could be followed by arrest and/or unpleasant encounters with police. Since he and I are of an age and probably heard the same debates in those years, I'm sure he climbed the building prepared to accept the consequences of a criminal charge and/or a bill for police/sheriff overtime. All that said, I didn't see anything here about charges. Since this ended peacefully, the police and prosecutors may be weighing the option of just double locking the doors to the building's roof and not providing Mr. Riney a courtroom stage at additional taxpayer expense.

Bob Needham

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 12:57 p.m.

Two comments have been removed -- one for an unsubstantiated accusation and one for name-calling.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 12:44 p.m.

Lets see who Mr Riney ACTUALLY helped with this stunt, ohhhh yeah the Police, Fire and EMS personel that responded and had to be out there what, close to 12 hours, much of it on a holiday, which depending on contracts got them paid at anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 time/hour. Atleast he possibly stimulated the local economy as maybe some of those officers/deputies/FF's/Paramedics will have some money to go out and buy a new TV or jet ski or pay off some bills,LOL. Maybe the "rush" on Best Buy etc will force them to hire a couple of new people thus helping out the un-employed too..... I think he should receive a bill from the county and all other agencies involved with this AND be criminally charged (likely something like Trespassing, but still). Just imagine there are alot of people out there that wanted him to be elected to make social, financial, policy etc decisions for us. Jeez


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 12:11 p.m.

now, now, Arieswoman...perhaps the police "assisted" him in making his way off the roof, since didn't say the police took him off the roof, doesn't mean that stories are not updated and verified [nod nod wink wink]...but I'd say his "hunger" strike caused him to be hungry and he came down for a hot dog...


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 12:11 p.m.

What I find funny about this is Riney owns his own business (Mow lawns) and hasn't hired one person. I hope he gets a long time in jail to think about his actions. It's all about the attention and nothing more.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 11:55 a.m.

I wonder if Mr. Riney ever thought about hiring someone to sell his hot dogs, thus actually doing something about creating jobs; rather than stage his as usual theatrics wanting everyone else to create jobs...hmmmm


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 11:35 a.m.

What a lot of commenters on this post missed is that while the people know that unemployment is a huge problem, the mainstream media throws it off as a bother to them. If the media hammered this home and the fact that the democrats in DC and Lansing are killing our economy, then people like Riney would not have to climb a building in protest. Obama spent $800 billion of our tax dollars with the promise unemployment would not exceed 8%, that flopped and now he wants to spend another $200 billion for the same thing.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 11:25 a.m.

Does anyone but me find it a bit ironic that Channel 2 had this story at 11 pm "On The Edge"...


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 11:06 a.m.

I think a year in jail and a five thousand dollar fine are appropriate in this case for the wasting of county money for this stunt.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 10:23 a.m.

Thanks Riney. Our tax dollars are hard at work - watching after you.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 9:56 a.m.

Has anyone asked how a man, with a load of equipment, made his way to the top of a government building unnoticed? The question needs to be asked....


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 9:42 a.m.

Hmm, is he giving away hot dogs up there?


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 8:52 a.m.

I wish he'd stop giving away all that heart-attack food in the area's poorest communities. Can't he give out salads or fresh fruit instead of sodium death food / hot dogs.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 8:20 a.m.

"Advocates of nonviolence believe cooperation and consent are the roots of political power: all regimes, including bureaucratic institutions, financial institutions, and the armed segments of society (such as the military and police); depend on compliance from citizens. On a national level, the strategy of nonviolence seeks to undermine the power of rulers by encouraging people to withdraw their consent and cooperation." Gene Sharp. One statement the Roofman makes: Small business would be creating jobs.....but.... stand up to the big banking lobby in this country that is blocking the growth of small business by refusing to lend....after we bailed them out with our tax money. Instead of insulting one man protesting, look at the big picture.

Steve the Wookiee

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 8:04 a.m.

I, too, have respect for people who stand up for what they believe but Mr. Riney's act is becoming tiresome. How is climbing onto the County Administration building going to "help [people] find jobs"? The county has a very limited(almost none)ability to create jobs. To whom is Mr. Riney pleading? What does he hope to accomplish? This man's antics and "protests" need to end before someone is seriously injured.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 7:51 a.m.

I like Hot Dogs and I like Bill Riney. People in Ann Arbor are ALWAYS whiney.

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 7:24 a.m.

What, exactly, was he hoping to accomplish with this? Make people aware of the unemployment problem? I'd say we are since unemployment has been the hot topic in the news pretty much incessantly for the past, oh, year or so. I agree with @treetowncartel, this guy just wasted a bunch of municipal dollars and diverted resources for this stunt. How pathetic.

Steve Pepple

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 7:21 a.m.

An inappropriate comment was removed.

Steve Pepple

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 6:55 a.m.

A comment was removed because of name-calling.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 6:42 a.m.

Exactly how does this kind of thing help the unemployed?


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 6:39 a.m.

Mr. Riney....You should pay out of your own pocket for all the resources you used last night. Police, Fire, HVA, and who knows what else. I would rather have emergency services, ready to respond to emergencies and actively preventing crime, then babysitting you all night.


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 5:55 a.m.

I respect people who stand up for what they believe. Courage is so lacking in this country today. People like me, would rather sit behind a keyboard and snipe at those who get off of their duff and take a stand, however difficult. Non-violent protest has made change in America. I congratulate Mr Riney for his courage. He brings attention to a serious issue in this country. And for that, I say "thank you".


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 5:54 a.m.

Is there such a thing as a serial climber?


Tue, Sep 7, 2010 : 5:48 a.m.

You are a little late on the story, he got up there yesterday morning. It was the lead on Detroit TV last night...with respect to Mr. Riney and his latest 15 minutes of fame, as a registered voter in his district I am glad he didn't get further than the primary. He is tying up resources, e.g, the police officers that need to be present for one, with these latest antics. I guess he does want to create jobs though.