LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A tent placed on the lawn near the Capitol by a group supporting the right-to-work legislation was torn down by opponents of the legislation, prompting the Michigan State Police to step in.
Americans for Prosperity put the tent up. But as the crowd swelled, so did the tensions. Suddenly, people dashed toward the tent and tore it down.
"I was right there when the guy started rushing in. I turned and I said, 'They are coming in.' That's when we started heading out the back," said Karen Damvelt, who was in the tent. "And we told everybody, 'Out, quick.'"
Damvelt was one of two people from West Michigan who complained that while there were dozens of officers on the Capitol lawn, none of them were near the tent to protect them.
"I saw no real police at all anytime when we walked through the crowds," said Damvelt.
Twenty-five to 30 members of Americans for Prosperity were in the tent when it came down.
"We were having a civil debate with several people," Scott Hagerston of Americans for Prosperity told 24 Hour News 8. "It's unfortunate that somebody came and rushed the tent and destroyed it."
No one was hurt.
"Everybody who was inside was able to get out," Hagerston said.
As some protestors cut pieces from the tent, others fought. Others began to chant "Union, union, union."
That's when Michigan State Police troopers armed with riot batons waded into the fray with their own chant.
"Move back," they said to protesters. "Move back. Move back."
Backed up by the Ingham County Sheriff's Department Mounted Division, the troopers broke up the crowd. No one was arrested.
Hagerston suggested something more than the tent was lost.
"We just wanted to come here and have an exchange of ideas," said Hagerston. "This is the state Capitol. This is where were supposed to talk about ideas."
Michigan is governed as a republic, with three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification.