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.”
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
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.
Photo of the crowd outside the door taken probably a half hour ago pic.twitter.com/wwKI5Vt9pP
— Matt Schmucker (@mtschmucker) April 30, 2020
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.