Two weeks ago, when the Liberate Michigan protest spilled into the Capitol building, armed protesters stood over state lawmakers.
Senate Democrat, Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) tweeted a viral photo of men with large guns watching from the state senate gallery, and Senator Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) wore a bulletproof vest during session.
Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today. #mileg pic.twitter.com/voOZpPYWOs
— Senator Dayna Polehanki (@SenPolehanki) April 30, 2020
State Representative Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) said she was unnerved by the crowd chanting “let us in” and “our house” outside of the House chamber.
“That is not the job I signed up for. I shouldn’t have to worry about whether there will be gunfire or just violence that is inflicted upon me, or my colleagues, or school children in the state capitol,” said Anthony.
The Democrat from Lansing had to walk to the capitol through a crowd of protesters, some holding Nazi symbols, nooses, and guns. She vented about it in a Facebook Live Video. Then, one of her constituents offered her an armed escort.
The next time she walked in she was flanked by brown and black men and women carrying semiautomatic weapons and pistols. It drew national attention.
Mich Rep. Sarah Anthony Escorted To State Capitol Building Protected By Armed Black Men After Volitale Racists Spotted Protesting With Confederate Flags, Nooses, & Swastikas - This Is How We Protect Our Queens! pic.twitter.com/DHIgHU0jp3
— Black Dollar Network (@BlackDollarNtwk) May 8, 2020
Michael Lynn III, was one of the people who escorted Anthony last week. He said it was to send a message that intimidating lawmakers at work with weapons isn't acceptable.
“If I’m playing loud music and someone’s on their balcony and they hear it, or like, you know...I’m in my space I can do that. But if I’m playing the loud music and that loud music says I want to kill my neighbor, then you know, they rightfully are in a state of discomfort that it should be stopped.”
Now, Anthony is calling for a gun ban at the capitol. She and Democratic Minority Leader Rep. Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) wrote a letter to the Michigan Capitol Commission, the group charged with maintaining the wellbeing of the historic building, requesting the ban.
The capitol commission met, after receiving Anthony’s letter. Shortly before the meeting Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a formal legal opinion saying the commission had the authority to make the ban.
Bill Kandler is a commissioner. He said while, “It’s totally inappropriate for a democratically elected constitutional body to be deliberating public policy with people peering down at them with guns,” the commission was flummoxed to be thrust into a decision-making role on guns in the capitol.
The commission voted unanimously to study if they had the ability to ban guns.
In the meeting there were a lot of questions about why the legislature wouldn’t pass a law banning weapons. Kandler says making a quick decision could open the commission up to a lawsuit.
“If we made policy now, we’d be shooting in the dark, and it would probably be more of a problem than not doing anything. I mean, the legislature could have done anything. We didn’t just do anything in four days, the legislature hasn’t done anything in four decades,” said Kandler.
Then, as organizers planned for a third protest, violent threats were made in several Facebook groups against the Governor.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) condemned the threats, calling them despicable and the people who made them, thugs.
But he said the protesters who stood over Senators weren’t part of that group.
“They’ve even shown up on the capitol lawn and in the building to protest the actions of government. But they have done so without threatening the safety of others,” said Shirkey.
No changes were made to the policy before Thursday’s protest. Lawmakers decided to adjourn until Tuesday.
Two hundred protesters stood outside an empty building in the rain including Scott Bowerman. He came packing. Bowerman says he's not a threat to anybody, but the incident at the senate gallery went too far
“They don’t need to threaten people. I carry an AR-15, I have a pistol on my hip. My wife has an AR-15 she carries a pistol on her hip. We’re not a threat to nobody.”
The Michigan Capitol Commission plans to meet next week, and Democratic lawmakers have introduced bills to ban weapons at the capitol. But, they're unlikely to pass in the Republican dominated state legislature.
For now, if a person wants to carry in a pistol or an AR-15 to the capitol building, there's nothing stopping them.