Anti-right-to-work protesters in Lansing, Michigan, attacked a tent owned by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that advocates for right-to-work laws. The protesters tore it down around 11:30 pm EST and slashed it apart with knives with members of AFP still inside. According to a witness, one person, a security guard for AFP, may have been injured. State police eventually drove the protesters off. No arrests were apparently made.
The tent, which clearly identified the group, was on the lawn of the capitol building. It was part of a small contingent of conservative supporters of right-to-work laws. As anger boiled over among right-to-work opponents, the crowd set upon the AFP tent. The Detroit Free Press reported that the crowd chanted: “Tear it down! Tear it down!” as it happened.
Annie Patnaude, AFP Michigan’s deputy state director, was present when it happened. She told the Washington Examiner that the protesters, “were dancing on top of the tent while there were people still inside trying to get out.”
“They had knives,” she said. “They cut all of the ties (holding the tent up) and then they started slashing the tent itself… I remember them saying, ‘We’re going to destroy these people.’” She added that it was “very obvious” there were still people in the tent. Between 10 to 15 people were still inside at the time.
Video of the event shows a large crowd of hard-hat types bringing the tent down to hoots and cheers and the protesters subsequently walking across it. No knives are in evidence in the footage though.
The police were nearby but apparently intimidated by the size of of the crowd. “It was just mayhem and I think (the police) were loathe to do anything like fire tear gas into the crowd. The police were really stand-offish. They really were just protecting the capitol it seems like,” Patnaude said.
Scot Hagerstrom, AFP’s Michigan director, said the police “billy-clubbed a few people and took them away.” But he was not aware of any arrests.
AFP has received financial backing from the Koch Brothers, wealthy conservative philanthropists who back a variety of free market causes. AFP’s connection to them has often made them the target of rhetorical attacks from the left.
Patnaude added: “The union’s chant all this morning and in the capitol is: ‘This is what democracy looks like.’ Let me tell you, tearing down a tent with people in it is not what democracy looks like. So I found it kind of ironic.”