Dems rip Republicans for canceling session during pro-gun rally

By: - September 17, 2020 3:59 pm

Proud Boys at the Second Amendment March at the Capitol, Sept. 17, 2020 | Laina G. Stebbins

Thursday’s legislative session in both chambers was canceled, sparking criticism from some Democrats that it was a precautionary move by GOP leadership to avoid armed visitors entering the state Capitol.

Session on Thursday would have coincided with the annual “Second Amendment March” event on the Capitol lawn, hosted by a slew of pro-gun groups. Open carry was encouraged and speakers touted attendees’ rights to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment March was hosted by the “Second Amendment March” Facebook page, Michigan Gun Owners and Michigan Open Carry Inc. More than 1,100 people attended, according to the Facebook event, although more than 4,700 more people were marked as “interested.” 

Many attendees sported pro-President Donald Trump signs and flags, “Don’t tread on me” flags and anti-Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs like, “My Governor Is An Idiot.” Members of the Michigan Militia were present, along with members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Proud Boys, a self-described western chauvinist group.

Rhetoric from speakers mostly centered around the importance of preserving the Second Amendment, but regularly ventured into criticism of Whitmer and Democrats in general for supposedly attempting to take away those rights. 

Different groups organizing efforts to recall Whitmer or restrict her emergency powers had booths set up on the Capitol lawn. 

The rally drew parallels to anti-Whitmer protests earlier this year over COVID-19 restrictions. In April, armed protesters pressed their way into the Capitol and stood over legislators during session.

Session was canceled before the next armed protest in May, but legislative leaders had denied that there was any connection.

In a tweet, state Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) said: “After the April 30 storming of the Capitol, session was likewise canceled just days before another armed protest.

“While I did not relish the thought of facing more armed men in the senate gallery on Thursday, we can’t keep canceling session ahead of these armed events. We were elected to work for our constituents, and this is preventing us from doing that. Ban guns from the Capitol now.”

State Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) posted on Facebook that is was “Interesting that Republican Leadership decided to cancel session today in Lansing …”

Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), said in an email that session was canceled because “the House got through more of the agenda on Tuesday [than] expected.”

Amber McCann, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Shirkey (R-Clarklake), said in a Monday email that votes and attendance would not be taken on Thursday. She did not respond to a request for further comment.

Michigan’s state Capitol does not have any rules in place regulating firearms in the building. The Michigan State Capitol Commission (MSCC), under pressure from the public and Democratic lawmakers, is currently still considering whether to adopt rules to restrict guns from the building.

The panel meets next at 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 12.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.