Protesters again converged on the Michigan State Capitol on Thursday morning, standing in the rain to demand an end to restrictions enacted to combat the coronavirus.
Tensions flared when a man appeared carrying a brown-haired doll with a noose around its neck. Other protesters objected to the display, concerned it would cause the group to be depicted as violent, the Detroit News reported.
“It’s the wrong message, man,” a protester could be heard saying in video of the incident. “It’s the wrong message.”
Someone grabbed the doll, and a brief scuffle ensued, as organizers called for police to respond. A woman cried, “We are so much better than this.” About a dozen Michigan State Police troopers escorted a protester into the Capitol building. Some in the crowd yelled at them to “arrest the governor,” the News reported.
Police said there were no injuries or arrests. They added that they confiscated an ax from one of the people involved.
The Thursday event was the third demonstration over lockdown orders imposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). The protests have been a national flash point, attracting widespread attention amid the debate over when and how to reopen states.
During an April rally, dozens of protesters — some carrying guns — entered the Capitol building. They stood outside the House chamber, chanting “Let us in.” Some taunted the police officers blocking the door. One lawmaker wore a bulletproof vest.
As a result, state police and lawmakers had braced for Thursday. The Senate’s Republican leader decried threats against Whitmer and called for the arrest of anyone brandishing a firearm, the Detroit Free Press reported. A state police spokeswoman said the agency was “prepared to take law enforcement action, as necessary.”
Photographs of coronavirus victims were posted near the Capitol in advance of the rally, according to the Detroit News. Among them were some of the 4,714 people killed in Michigan, which carries the country’s fourth-highest death toll. Shortly after the rally’s 9 a.m. start, about 150 people had gathered, police said. A banner with the word “FREEDOM!!!” hung in front of the Capitol building. Passing cars honked support.
Live streams captured the protesters — some carrying guns, few wearing masks — waving messages including “Defend our constitution patriots stand up,” “Stop Whitmer now,” and “Dangerous safety is better than safe tyranny.” As in past protests, several signs supported President Trump or attacked Whitmer.
“Fuhrer Gretchen, remember the Battle of Athens TN 1946 and Shay’s Rebellion 1786-1787,” read one, referring to violent uprisings against the government.
A counterprotester, meanwhile, carried a message supporting the governor.