Nessel: Michigan protests last year were a ‘dry run’ for D.C. insurrection

By: - January 14, 2021 6:08 am

Dana Nessel | Ken Coleman

Following the pro-President Trump insurrection that took place in the U.S. Capitol last week and a Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) warning of planned armed protests at all 50 state capitols from Saturday through “at least” Jan. 20, Attorney General Dana Nessel said she is “apoplectic about the situation” and “gravely concerned” about safety in Michigan.

Nessel said that part of her concern stems from the plot in October to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the April protest in Lansing when armed protesters stormed the Michigan Capitol en masse and stood in the Senate gallery while session proceeded down below.

She said Michigan was “definitely ground zero” for right-wing extremist activity and was a “dry run” for the insurrection at the nation’s Capitol.

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People saw how very easy it was to essentially take over a state capitol building,” Nessel told Anderson Cooper on CNN Wednesday. “And the lesson that they drew away from that was ‘why not try it at the nation’s Capitol? If we can do it in Lansing, Michigan, maybe we can do the same thing in Washington, D.C.’ And they were right.”

Nessel said that had more arrests taken place during the armed protests in Michigan and there had been more accountability, it’s possible “they wouldn’t have been emboldened” to storm the Capitol last week. 

Many of the people who were not arrested as part of the plan to kill the governor actually traveled to Washington, D.C., and so they were part of the events that took place at the Capitol,” Nessel said. “So we’re talking about the same people that were in D.C., and I expect them to be back in Lansing.”

On Monday, the Michigan State Capitol Commission passed a long-awaited ban on the open carry of firearms in the Capitol building, but many Democrats, including Nessel, say the ban doesn’t go far enough to ensure safety.

“I don’t know why it makes a difference how much security you have in there and how many state troopers you have or Capitol Police if you’re allowed at will to bring firearms into the Capitol as the legislature is meeting. It makes no sense to me. So I’m very concerned about it,” Nessel said.

On Wednesday, Nessel joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from across the country in sending a letter to Acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen condemning the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“What transpired at the U.S. Capitol was an unprecedented attack on our democracy and a direct threat to the safety of our country’s leaders and other public servants,” Nessel said in a statement. “Acts of insurrection like we witnessed last week must be met with swift justice. I am committed to defending our Constitution and country from acts of sedition and terrorism, and I stand firmly with my colleagues to condemn this lawless violence.” 

Joining Michigan’s attorney general in writing this letter were the attorneys general from all 50 states, except for Indiana, Louisiana, Montana and Texas, and the attorneys general of Washington, D.C, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.