Armed protestors enter Michigan's state capitol demanding end to Covid-19 lockdown
Michigan is an open-carry state.
Hundreds of demonstrators, some of them heavily armed, crowded into Michigan’s State Capitol on Thursday afternoon to protest against the stay-at-home orders issued as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Inside the building, a debate was being held on the extension of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's state of emergency.
Protestors stood in the gallery and attempted to gain access to the house floor, but were prevented from doing so by the chamber’s Sergeant-at-Arms.
“Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us,” Senator Dayna Polehanki tweeted.
“Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today,” she added.
Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today. #mileg pic.twitter.com/voOZpPYWOs
— Senator Dayna Polehanki (@SenPolehanki) April 30, 2020
Not all protestors were armed but there were some carrying guns in the crowd. Michigan is an open-carry state and it is legal for guns to be openly carried within the state capitol, although signs and banners are forbidden within to protect the building's architecture.
Protest moves inside Michigan Capitol. Crowd attempts to get onto Hoise floor. Lots of Michigan State Police and House sergeants at arms blocking door. pic.twitter.com/4FNQpimP4W
— Rod Meloni (@RodMeloni) April 30, 2020
The protest was organised by Michigan United for Liberty, dubbed the American Patriot Rally, to call for the reopening of businesses.
Republican lawmakers - who control both chambers of the state - did not extend the state's emergency declaration before it expired at midnight on Thursday and instead voted to bring a lawsuit against Democratic Governor Whitmer's steps to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
This is despite a state court ruling on Wednesday which said the order was constitutional.
Whitmer has faced a backlash for her stay-at-home order, which has been in place since 23 March, although it has been slightly relaxed to allow some businesses to open as long as they adhere to strict social distancing rules.
Thursday's rally is the largest one since Michigan protestors sat in their cars outside the statehouse to cause a traffic jam in mid-April.
President Donald Trump chimed in at the time, appearing to lend support to the protests, tweeting: "LIBERATE MICHIGAN".
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020