Hundreds of protesters, including groups of armed extremists, stormed the Michigan State Capitol yesterday demanding that the state permit businesses to reopen. President Donald Trump, perhaps unsurprisingly, sided with those protesters, calling them “very good people.”
“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal,” Trump tweeted. Trump has repeatedly encouraged protests against governors who have implemented lockdowns in their states related to the coronavirus pandemic, which right-wing extremists have reportedly interpreted as a call to arms.
The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 1, 2020
Not unlike other ”reopen” protests across the country, Thursday’s self-labeled “American Patriot Rally” attracted its share of right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists calling for the state to lift measures meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which many right-wing media figures have portrayed as some sort of nefarious conspiracy. The event itself was organized by at least one conspiracy theorist, Jason Howland, who also addressed the crowd as a speaker.
The Guardian reported that among the hundreds of protesters gathered in Michigan, “anti-government slogans” were heard, “including comparing the state’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, to Hitler,” and armed demonstrators from the Michigan Liberty Militia were present, acting as an unofficial “security detail” for protesters. Protesters also allegedly threatened Capitol police, reporters, and state lawmakers, according to The Guardian.
Reporter Anna Liz Nichols shared another view of the protesters crowded outside the House floor in the Capitol, chanting “Let us in! Let us in!” Nichols’ video shows a man in tactical gear trying to gather the attention of the crowd and another wearing a Hawaiian-pattern shirt likely in reference to “the boogaloo,” which the Anti-Defamation League identifies as far-right extremists’ slang term for what they believe to be a coming civil war. The Hawaiian shirts are a nod to “Big Luau,” a tongue-in-cheek mispronunciation of “boogaloo.”
At the MI Capitol pic.twitter.com/IuYoBhstIg
— Anna Liz Nichols (@annaliznichols) April 30, 2020
Local reporter Rod Meloni shared a video that shows the protesters from another angle, yelling at Michigan State Police and the House Sergeants-at-Arms.
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
State Sen. Dayna Polehanki shared an image on Twitter of armed protesters in the capitol building, writing, “Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today.”
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
In 2017, Trump notoriously said that demonstrators at the violent Unite the Right white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, were “very fine people,” despite the fact an avowed neo-Nazi committed a violent murder at the event. Trump and his allies have since tried to rewrite history about his “fine people” remarks, arguing that the comment was taken out of context.