GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Thursday’s protest in Lansing wasn’t the first over how the governor has responded to the coronavirus, but this time, the protestors moved inside the Capitol — and those who were armed were allowed to bring their guns.
Michigan State Police Lt. Brian Oleksyk said of the more than 4,700 protesters estimated at the protest, about 275 at a time were allowed inside.
“We only had one arrest and that occurred outside, and that protest went really well yesterday,” Oleksyk said. “We felt it went really, really well.”
Some who work inside felt differently.
“I’ll just tell you, I feared for my life,” said state Sen. Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit, who was in the Senate chamber as armed protesters stood above in the gallery and was one of the legislators wearing a bulletproof vest.
“There was a moment where there was a loud enough booming that it sounded as (if) there was a risk the chambers were going to get burst into,” state Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids, said.
He said in addition to the guns, the protesters’ rhetoric was menacing, saying they were threatening to lynch lawmakers and imprison the governor.
“The fact is that the Capitol could essentially be occupied by people who were producing terror,” LaGrand said.
MSP will not take a position on whether it is safe or even advisable for people to bring guns into the Capitol.
“Like I said, it is allowed,” Oleksyk said.
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Among Great Lakes states, about half allow guns to be taken into their capitols.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take. Is it going to take a mass shooting of legislators before people realize that this is irrational policy?” LaGrand said. “The distance between thought and action if you have an AK-47 in your hand is shockingly short.”
He said the issue is not about the right to own guns.
“There’s a chasm between saying you should be able to own guns and saying you should be permitted to storm the capitol of the government holding weapons of mass destruction,” LaGrand said.
Santana wants changes that are unlikely to be made.
“As long as the Republican leadership condones this type of behavior, we all are in a risky situation where I’m afraid it could end tragically,” Santana said. “I think we need to have metal detectors and a check point process, because let’s be clear, there is no mental health checks.”