Thursday, December 13, 2012

Right to Work is wrong for Michigan Rally – the Police

Protecting the Doors and Grounds

I have been to a number of events on the front steps of the Capitol building in Lansing in the last couple of years and the State Police are usually there someplace. I have never felt threatened by there presence and while they don’t usually interact very much with the people, when they do the interaction usually appears to be friendly.

The State Police were at the Capitol in force for this rally. With officers stationed at all of the doors. Troopers in riot gear and deputies on horseback were nearby as well. Folks were taking pictures, quite a few people went over to see the horses and people who spoke to officers at the door had polite and friendly interactions.

In spite of reports that one person was hurt by a horse and several others were pepper sprayed, my own opinion is that law enforcement was not hostile or aggressive. That being said, it is also my opinion that had there been no displays of force whatsoever, the people attending the rally.


The Tents Came Down

Conservatives leased the front steps and grounds. They had the money to buy the ground but they didn’t have the feet to hold it. Labor-friendly people took the steps and pushed conservatives out. You might have expected the Police to step in, but they didn’t.

Two large tents were erected on the lawn by Americans for Prosperity. The tents were nearly empty with only a few tables and chairs inside and a couple of anti-labor conservatives wandering about. Outside the tents, thousands of pro-labor progressives occupied the lawn. It wasn’t long before people started pushing up against the tent, rocking about and then it happened, the first tent came down and the crowd cheered. A few minutes later and the next tent came down to more cheers.

Did the Police rush in and mace the crowd or arrest people? NO! Some of the people from labor politely rolled up the edges of the tents and people were asked not to step on or damage the property of others.


Protecting the Wall

The word went out, “They are voting!” Thousands of people gathered on the sidewalks and lawn east of the House chamber. We were loud and we were visible but we were not destructive or violent. The police made no effort to interfere with the rally and then there was a vote. The results were written on a large piece of paper and held in a window for us to read.

Some of the people gathered in front of the Capitol building must have been behaving badly; perhaps they got to close to the windows or something? Suddenly there was a long line of State Police in riot gear behind me. They made a line across the crowd and found their way to the front of the building were they pushed back workers. There was a report that someone had been pepper sprayed, but I did not see it.

Troopers in riot gear took up positions near the north door and in front of the building. Somehow, deputies on horseback also managed to find their way to the wall and backed up into a corner.

I’m sure there was a bit of a scuffle as the troopers and deputies moved in and pushed back the workers, but this picture really tells the story. This trooper in riot gear stands by the window and the people nearby are smiling and carrying on a friendly conversation. Peaceful participants clearly were not being harassed by the State Police.


Protecting the Doors

By about 2:00 PM, the crowd began to thin out and most of the people who had been at the wall of the Capitol building had either moved to other places or had left the grounds to catch their ride home.

Someone must have put the word out that the next step for this bill was the Governor’s desk and the office of the Governor is located in the George W. Romney Building just east of the Capitol building. A crowd gathered outside the doors and began chanting.

I wasn’t able to get my camera out of the bag fast enough to catch images of the State Police from the Capitol wall making a line for the Romney Building doors but when they moved it got everyone’s attention and many of the people who had been milling about on the lawn hustled over to the Governor’s office to see what was happening.

From the edges, it was difficult to find the helmets of the Police but troopers positioned themselves in front of the doors and windows and pushed back the crowd. The crowd was smaller but the mood was just a bit uglier than it had been at the Capitol wall.

Pepper Sprayed

I was getting ready to leave myself when my friend pointed to the crowd and said that someone had been pepper sprayed. I was only barely able to get an image as he was taken over to the nurses’ tent.

A few moments later another person was brought out of the crowd who also appeared to have been sprayed.

I was able to get one picture of a person in the nurses’ tent that appeared to have been pepper sprayed and then my battery went dead.


This report may be focused on the Police and pepper spray but the fact is that the people who participated in this rally where very civil and Police where not aggressive, at least not that I observed. Others will have to decide whether the several people who were hurt crossed the line or if the Police had overreacted.