LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan State Police and Michigan National Guardsmen made themselves visible outside the state Capitol in Lansing as a few people who object to the election of President-elect Joe Biden gathered for a protest.
At the event’s peak mid-day Sunday, MSP said about 20 to 25 protesters were present. Most people in front of the Capitol were police officers or members of the press. The event remained calm and troopers said no arrests were made.
One man said his group, the anti-government boogaloo movement, planned the protest. He understood why he may be perceived as an aggressor but said he was at the Capitol to promote unity and that he wanted peace. He and several others from his group were armed with long guns.
Some of the boogaloo members told News Nation, WOOD TV8’s national sister outlet, they were visited by federal authorities ahead of the protest.
At one point, a group of 10 or fewer boogaloo members, most of them armed, stood in front of the state Capitol while one of its members addressed reporters. The man, who did not say his name, condemned corrupt political parties, politicians’ relationships with big corporations, police shootings, state-ordered coronavirus shutdowns and war.
“And a message to the government: We come in peace,” the boogaloo member said. “We do not intend to commit violence, but I am pleading with you with tears in my eyes and cracks in my voice, if you continue to oppress the American people, they will remain rational no longer.”
The boogaloo members were accompanied by at least one woman who opposed President Donald Trump.
But other pro-Trump protesters who did not appear to be affiliated with boogaloo said they were there because they believe there was widespread fraud in the November election, despite the fact that there is no evidence to indicate that and several lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies have been summarily dismissed.
Another man, a Lansing local, said was upset by the people who were amplifying the lies. He was worried about the threat of violence.
The boogaloo group left the Capitol shortly after 1 p.m. Some other protesters remained.
It was difficult to know going into Sunday how large the protest would be. When News 8 reached out to several right-wing and militia groups across the state Friday, all said they would not attend the demonstration. MSP said Sunday they were prepared for any size group, but a large crowd didn’t materialize.
“Just know that the Michigan Capitol is safe. Law enforcement is out here. We’re hoping for a very peaceful event of 1,000 people or if it’s just us,” MSP 1st Lt. Mike Shaw told the Detroit Free Press.
The large police presence was planned after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and a subsequent warning from the FBI that groups were planning protests at all 50 state capitols and in Washington, D.C., today.
Lansing city officials advised people not to go downtown Sunday.
MSP spokesman Lt. Brian Oleksyk said violence would not be tolerated and anyone who committed a crime would be arrested.
In addition to the large number of troopers, a 6-foot chain-link fence was erected around the Michigan Capitol Friday and streets on all sides of the building have been shut down, some for two or three blocks. The National Guard was also activated to help respond. State police also said Friday it would have more “covert” teams on hand.
During an update on Sunday’s event through Zoom, Lansing city officials said the heavy police presence was a major deterrent for possible violence. The heightened police presence will continue throughout the week, they said.
Though demonstrations stayed calm on Sunday, police are anticipating more protests leading up to Inauguration Day.
“We’re well aware of the 20th as well and the next couple days. We’re going to remain in a high state of awareness and preparedness and continue to monitor our critical infrastructures throughout the city,” Lansing Police Department Chief Daryl Green said.
The National Guard will also remain on standby, officials said.