Armed Protesters Enter Michigan Capitol While Lawmakers Debate COVID Stay-At-Home Order

Protestors try to enter the Michigan House of Representative chamber and are being kept out by the Michigan State Police after the American Patriot Rally organized by Michigan United for Liberty protest for the reope... Protestors try to enter the Michigan House of Representative chamber and are being kept out by the Michigan State Police after the American Patriot Rally organized by Michigan United for Liberty protest for the reopening of businesses on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on April 30, 2020. - The group is upset with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's mandatory closure to curtail Covid-19. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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April 30, 2020 4:43 p.m.

Armed protesters entered the Michigan capitol Thursday while Democrats and Republicans debated extending Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) emergency stay-at-home declaration.

The protesters had been removed from the building and the lawn a few hours after the protests surrounding the capitol began, the Clerk of the House’s office told TPM.

Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D) tweeted a picture from the Senate floor earlier on Thursday, saying that some of her colleagues had donned bulletproof vests.

“They were very upset by each call to recess and incorrectly believed that the ‘do nothing Democrats’ (their words) called the recesses,” Polehanki told TPM. “Republican leadership actually determines our schedule.”

“Yes, it is nerve wracking to have people who are angry with you above you in the gallery holding rifles,” she added. “But this is legal in Michigan.”

Matt Schmucker, photographer for Michigan State’s State News, captured protesters who’d gathered to call for “freedom” from Whitmer’s stay-at-home order moving inside the capitol building.

Guns are permitted inside the Michigan capitol though, oddly, protest signs are not.

“These folks are a small minority of people who are vocally opposed the governor’s stay at home executive order,” Rosie Jones, a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D), told TPM. “Although, their message is muddled with inflammatory language like ‘tyrants get your rope’ and images of swastikas and confederate flags.”

Whitmer’s emergency declaration expires Thursday at midnight, and Republicans seem so far unwilling to extend it. Though it’s not clear whether, under Michigan law, the governor needs their approval, temperatures have risen in recent days as Republicans call for businesses to be reopened.

Whitmer’s office on Wednesday leaked emails with the Republican Senate Majority leader showing that she had refused to accept temporary extensions in exchange for a promise that she would issue future stay-at-home orders via the legislature and not through an executive order.

Senator Mike Shirkey’s (R) spokesperson said that after the leak, any desire in the Republican caucus to work with the governor had “evaporated.”

This story has been updated with comments from Sen. Polehanki.

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