It was supposed to be a protest to advocate workers' rights, but a gathering of union members in Lansing, Mich., last week reportedly resulted in thousands of dollars of damage to equipment belonging to small-business owners, including Clinton Tarver, owner of Clint's Hotdog Cart and Casual Catering.
Tarver says that his cart and supplies were destroyed by "violent" pro-union demonstrators during the rallies against so-called right-to-work legislation in Michigan. The proposal, which bans unions from mandating that workers pay dues, was signed into law on Dec. 11 by Gov. Rick Snyder, despite protests by thousands, including teachers.
Tarver said that he didn't take a stance on the controversial law -- "I'm not on this side, I'm not on that side, I'm just doing the job," he told Lansing TV station WLNS. He was hired by a conservative group, Americans for Prosperity, to serve hot dogs to supporters inside one of two tents erected on the Capitol lawn, according to a report on the MLive website. Americans for Prosperity was founded by the conservative industrialists, the Koch Brothers, known for their anti-union stances.
Tarver and several of the group's supporters were inside the tent, when protesters began trampling on it and yelling racial slurs, Tarver told another Lansing-area station, WILX-TV. "People standing on my table, smashing it, dumping my chili out on the ground, cheese, sauerkraut," Tarver said. "Throwing the soda and coolers." Hot dogs and buns were ruined, as well, to the the tune of about $400.
After word spread of the damage to Tarver's catering equipment, a Capitol staffer, Lorilea Zabadal, decided to help by setting up an online Support Clint fundraising site, with the goal of raising $2,000 to help Tarver get back up and running. In a matter of days $33,500 had been raised.
"What happened to Clint absolutely broke my heart, and I thought, 'Hey, someone has to do something about this,' " said Zabadal, a Republican aide to a state representative who set up a page for Tarver on GoFundMe.com. "I never expected this. I never imagined that at all."
Tarver told Fox News on Friday that he was overwhelmed by the generosity. "The public has shown such love to me. You never know your true friends until you get down. ... You learn from your endeavors."
According to Fox News, Tarver won't be selling dogs curbside again until March, when he'll unveil a new hot dog cart, thanks to his new-found fortune.
But given the amount of windfall, he also plans to share the wealth with others.
"I have sick sister, so I'm going to help her out," he said. "And I'm going to help my church, too."
Tarver is grateful to Zabadal -- a friend of Tarver's wife through Facebook -- for her concern, particularly because she's a vegetarian.
"It's really odd that she started this website for me," he told Fox News. "So there's going to be a Lorilea hot dog -- and it'll be vegetarian."
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