With memories of 2020 gun protests, Michigan lawmakers fear weekend violence at the state Capitol By Reuters

By Michael Martina and Nathan Layne LANSING, Michigan (Reuters) – In the shadow of a towering cast-iron dome, dozens of state troopers patrolled the perimeter of the Michigan State Capitol as lawmakers returned to work Wednesday morning, a sense of calm masked by the impending threat of violence this weekend. The south side was encased in a 2.1 meter high wire fence due to ongoing construction. But pedestrians were not prevented from accessing their snow-covered lawns or from climbing the same front steps that served as an entry point for the hundreds of right-wing armed protesters who last year organized what many now see as a test run https: // www. reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-michigan/trump-backers-protest-michigan-stay-at-home-orders-at-state-capitol-idUSKCN21Y0BA for the January 6 raid in Washington. Just inside the front door was a sign informing visitors of a new rule, enacted Monday, intended to alleviate some security concerns at the State Capitol in Lansing: “The open carrying of firearms is prohibited in the Capitol, “it read. Laurie Pohutsky, a Democratic state representative from Livonia, said she was a bit nervous, noting that visitors could still carry concealed weapons inside. “We need to be aware of the big picture and be honest about the fact that there are people who want to do harm,” he said after entering the building before the first legislative session on Wednesday, 2021. The nerves in Lansing reflect the sense of crisis. building across the country in the wake of last week’s siege of the United States Capitol in Washington and an FBI warning https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-inauguration-fbi/fbi- warns-of-armed -protests-before-the-inauguration-of-bidens-abc-news-idUSKBN29G28I that armed protests are being planned in all 50 US state capitals in the run-up to the inauguration of the President-elect Joe Biden on January 20. But more than anywhere else, Lansing officials know the risks. In April, days after President Donald Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” in protest of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order to stay home to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, men with long guns rushed to the Capitol, filling its halls in an effort to pressure lawmakers to end the blockade. Some struggled to access the floor of the legislative chamber, yelling “Let us in!”, And a group entered the gallery, glaring at the legislators below. At least two of the protesters were among those accused of a failed plot to kidnap Whitmer, a Democrat and frequent critic of Trump. The commission that runs the Capitol voted on the open hauling ban in a hastily convened session Monday sparked by the Washington attack. The Michigan State Police have also increased security in anticipation of riots. However, noting that the commission did not reach a total ban on guns, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has said she considers the Capitol to be unsafe. Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Nessel called lawmakers “easy ducks” and Michigan “ground zero” for extremists seeking to overtake a state government. ALARM SIRENS In fact, experts say Michigan’s troubling history as a hotbed of militia groups should sound the alarm bells. Stephen Piggott, a program analyst at the Western States Center, a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit that tracks extremists, says many people who traveled to Washington last week are now “revitalized” with the goal of sowing the chaos in his home state. It considers that the capitals of Michigan, Washington, California, Arizona and Pennsylvania are among the possible sources of violence, and considers that the opening day represents the greatest risk. “That is Trump’s last day in office,” he said. “I think that can really push people to the limit.” Much of the law enforcement approach was trained on Sunday, January 17, when the anti-government “boogaloo” movement, whose supporters seek to spark a second civil war, had already outlined plans to hold demonstrations in all 50 states. Alex Friedfeld, a researcher with the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism, said he was concerned about the post-January. 6 social media posts by “boogaloo” followers that reveal a kind of envy that, unlike Trump supporters, they are not credited with having played a central role in the chaos. That envy could be a motivator for some to take action in the future, he warned. But Friedfeld also noted a lack of massive organization on the scale seen before other major protests, which he said could be related to a crackdown on conservative social media platforms or concerns about a stronger law enforcement presence. Still, he warned against officials letting their guard down. “It is possible for extremist elements to cling to a protest and use it as a cover to commit violence in some way,” he said. In Lansing, Wednesday’s House session opened at noon with an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance. Apart from the media, the gallery above the chamber was practically empty and there were no protesters outside. Donna Lasinski, leader of the Michigan House of Representatives Democratic minority, doesn’t think the threat of violence will really go away until lawmakers who have spread falsehoods about voter fraud overrule those efforts. She has called for the discipline of state Republicans who have made such claims. “Until we stop giving him oxygen, he will continue to burn,” he said after recalling a bomb threat on Capitol Hill last week. (report by Michael Martina in Lansing, Michigan, and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; edited by Matthew Lewis) OLUSTOPNEWS Reuters US Online Report Top News 20210113T215513 + 0000