LANSING — The state’s Capitol saw another day of protests against Governor Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order. Protesters, many armed, gathered on the Capitol grounds early on a rainy Thursday. The state legislature was not in session and so the Capitol Building itself was closed for business.
The protests were subdued, with a hundred or so protesters scattered in front of the building’s entrance and lawn. No arrests were made or citations given. On Wednesday, MSP Public Affairs Manager Shanon Banner told The Arab American News that protesters can expect more police presence and that face covering and social distancing was expected.
“Our message to attendees is that protesting must be done in a manner that is safe and lawful, and we’ll be doing our part to ensure the Capitol is a safe environment for everyone,” Banner said. “Our expectation is that anyone coming to the Capitol will adhere to the executive orders in regard to wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing, as these requirements are for everyone’s protection and safety.”
Much was made of the angry and heavily armed protest that took place two weeks ago inside of the building. Angry, loud protesters brandished weapons, sometimes yelling at Michigan State Police officers, inches away from their faces.
Lawmakers felt threatened by the sizable crowd in the lobby, pushing Attorney General Dana Nessel to make the legal argument that the Capitol Commission, which oversees the building’s affairs, are allowed to ban guns inside of its premises if they choose to. A vote was suspended this week while the Commission reviews the matter.
“The presence of heavily armed protesters at the Capitol unnecessarily creates a powder keg dynamic that is dangerous to protesters, law enforcement and public servants reporting to work at the Capitol,” Nessel said in a joint press release with MSP Col. Joe Gasper. “My office will work in coordination with local authorities and the Michigan State Police to uphold our commitment to public safety.”
Our expectation is that anyone coming to the Capitol will adhere to the executive orders in regard to wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing as these requirements are for everyone’s protection and safety — Michigan State Police.
Even so, the MSP only said it would take action against those brandishing weapons in a threatening manner. For example, protesters with a finger on their weapon’s trigger, what police call “indexing.” Michigan still remains an open-carry state. Of course, there were no lawmakers on the premises who could potentially have been threatened this time. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, joined the chorus of voices looking for tougher enforcement.
“Anyone brandishing (weapons) in such a way as to intimidate or threaten anyone else should be properly handcuffed, properly taken in and fingerprinted,” he said this week.
No arrests or citations were made for not following social distancing, however, even though many stood next to others without face protection. Michigan United for Liberty is the organization behind the protests. The group has largely condemned violence against lawmakers, including Whitmer.