Troopers arrest 11 in Lansing protests
Michigan State Police Capt. Gary Nix says troopers arrested 11 people Wednesday night during protests at the state Capitol.
All who were arrested will be charged with trespassing, and one faces a felony charge of obstructing a police officer. Nix said the details of the felony case were not completely clear but revolved around that person opening a bathroom window on the ground floor of the Capitol in a move to allow other protesters in.
Similar actions were taken in Wisconsin last week, where protesters opened windows of ground floor offices to allow protesters in.
The arrests came at the end of a day that saw thousands of protesters on the Capitol lawn as well as in the building protesting 40 bills which activists say unfairly target labor. There were also protests against Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposals.
Those protests were dying down and most people had left when a group of about 100 entered the Capitol building in an attempt to keep it open, as was the original plan for Tuesday. Like the night before, when the police informed the protesters that they would have to vacate the building or face arrest, most of them peacefully left.
But when it came time to close the building, the doors were locked and that’s when the problems began.
Nicole Conaway, one of the protesters inside the building at that point, told the Messenger what happened:
“We took a vote and decided to try and stay as long as we could. There were people pounding on the windows wanting to get in so a group gathered up and tried to go towards the doors to let other people in. That’s when the police kind of slammed the leaders to the floor and took them away and arrested the people that were in the front.”
The smaller group of younger protesters then regrouped and had to decide what to do. Most of them decided to leave peacefully while a handful of them locked arms together and chose defiance.
Lance Enderle, who organized the rotunda sit-in on Tuesday, was one of those who chose to leave upon being ordered to do so. He spoke to the Michigan Messenger after he left the building, saying that while he and most of the others tried hard to be respectful and abide by the law.
Two members of the group of young people that voted also spoke to the Messenger at that point, explaining exactly what had happened after the larger group left and saying that they applauded those who chose to be arrested.
At that point, the larger body of protesters began to surround the building, hoping to see those who were arrested be taken out of the building. When a group of police cars pulled up to the north entrance of the Capitol, the crowd amassed around that door, where uniformed officers stood inside, apparently with the arrested protesters.
One of their compatriots, wearing a kerchief over his face to hide his identity, pushed two large metal dumpsters in the way of the police cars, but he was not arrested. The police calmly stood inside the door of the north entrance, not reacting to what was going on and apparently discussing how to handle the situation.
About 7 pm, several officers came out of the building, got into their squad cars, backed out and drove away. The arrested protesters were not, in fact, taken out that entrance. They were not seen leaving the premises and none of the observers was certain how they had been removed.
A short time later, Nix announced the number of arrests and the charges. No names were released. Nix agreed with Enderle that the protests had been predominately respectful and saying only a small group crossed the line.
“The entire day went fantastic. We had all kinds of people here doing their American thing,” said Nix. “These people (those arrested) had a different agenda.”
Here are several videos of events as they unfolded, in chronological order. The first is of the last of the younger protesters leaving the building, with a handful still inside choosing to be arrested:
The second is of Lance Enderle and two of the younger protesters explaining what happened inside the building:
The third and fourth are of one young protester, hiding his identity, pushing large metal dumpsters in front of the police cars.
Eartha Melzer, Ed Brayton and Ian Kullgren all contributed to this report.