The Michigan state Capitol was closed Thursday as demonstrators gathered at the steps of the building to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order.
The latest protest and the Capitol's closure came two weeks after protesters, some armed, entered the building and demanded to be allowed into the legislative chambers, which have been closed due to social distancing measures. Photos from the day showed some protesters, many of whom were not wearing masks or standing more than 6 feet from one another, screaming at law enforcement officers who were keeping them out of the chambers.
The Senate and House were both out of session Thursday -- adjourned until next Tuesday -- leading Michigan State Police to close the Capitol to the public per protocol. The coronavirus pandemic has already led lawmakers to work remotely and pare down in-person sessions.
The Michigan House previously laid out a plan to meet once a week and then other days as needed, given that it's more difficult for its 110 members to socially distance than Michigan's 38 senators, Gideon D'Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Lee Chatfield, told CNN.
"Since the House finished all of the votes planned for the week yesterday, it adjourned until next week," D'Assandro said Thursday.
Michigan Senate leadership did not reply to CNN's request for comments as to why the Senate has adjourned until next week. Its online calendar shows that the chamber has been in session Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for the last two weeks and is scheduled to be in session next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Police spokeswoman Shanon Banner confirmed to CNN that because neither chamber was in session or holding committee meetings, the Capitol was closed "per the procedures of the Michigan Capitol Commission."
The protest, organized by Michigan United for Liberty, drew a crowd of roughly 200 "at the high point" of Thursday's event, according to Michigan State Police estimates. The crowd later dwindled to about 75 people, according to the state police.
Banner confirmed that some demonstrators were openly carrying firearms.
To recap: armed white supremacist terrorists forced the closure of Michigan's state legislature for at least several days. In any other country we'd call this a terrorist act. And as with neighboring Wisconsin, Republicans are now trying to complete the victory.
Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature urged a judge Friday to strike down stay-home orders and other restrictions related to the coronavirus, saying Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer trampled their authority in determining statewide emergencies.
The clash in Michigan is the latest between Democratic governors who have shut down businesses and ordered people to stay home in response to COVID-19 and conservatives who believe the steps are excessive.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court this week ruled against Gov. Tony Evers, clearing the way for bars and restaurants to reopen.
The dispute in Michigan centers on two laws: a 1976 statute that gives the Legislature a role in emergency declarations after 28 days, and another from 1945 that grants broad authority to governors.
The House and Senate, which are controlled by Republicans, did not extend Whitmer's disaster emergency declaration in late April but she acted anyway.
“The governor has acted against the expressed will of the Legislature and is exercising authority that does not exist,” attorney Michael R. Williams argued on behalf of lawmakers.
So yeah, at this point we have active terrorist incursions in several states, and they are openly affecting policies in those states.
More will be coming, as Jared Yates Sexton notes.
Michigan is just the first state to experience this problem in this moment. Of course, in Oregon we saw an outlaw group led by the Bundy Clan occupy federal ground and escape consequences, but this new incident is an escalation of a trend that we should become unfortunately accustomed to. As governments and countries fall apart, the appearance of paramilitary forces is to be expected. It is a seizure of authority from citizens with plans and designs to forego democratic institutions in favor of authoritarian measures.
The danger lies not only in the physical threatening, but in the societal repercussions. It feels now almost certain that the stalemate in Michigan, between a governor protecting her constituents from a deadly pandemic and a group of armed men looking to start a race war and install a fascist dictatorship, could lead to violence. That’s what these demonstrations are about. Putting people in pressurized situations and waiting for the tinderbox to ignite. Each march and protest and siege is about upping the ante while awaiting the terrible next act.
But even if there is no violence, the political act of intimidating legislatures, of interrupting the people’s business with weapons and maneuvers intended to terrorize lawmakers, is an affront to the concept of an open and democratic society. Even while no blood has been shed, and hopefully none will be, armed men stalking the statehouse and occupying the halls of a democratically-elected legislature is a symbol of violence as a means of governing.
These moments inspire other actors to do the same, and we will probably see more incidents of mobs of Americans and terrorist organizations occupying public spaces. It is infectious and as it grows it only hastens the decline of a nation and its democratic institutions. This is the case and has always been the case. Meanwhile, the story is largely just a blip on a radar of continued coverage of Donald Trump’s lies, scandals, and conspiracy mongering. And those who should know better show concern, but are slow to admit the growing existential threat lingering over the nation.
We are watching America in decline, an empire coming apart at the seams. We can bury our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening, but it doesn’t make it any less true. As long as criminals go unpunished, whether they be in the White House or engaging in political terrorism in the halls of statehouses around the country, it quickens our slide. This will not simply go away and it will not heal itself.
But only in states with Democratic governors, mind you. The violence will come, and it will be lethal and breathtaking in scope.