By Steve Gunn
LANSING, Mich. – The unions promised violence, and that’s what they delivered to people who didn’t agree with their position.
About 10,000 union protesters gathered on the lawn of the state capitol Tuesday to vent their anger about new right-to-work laws that were quickly passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.
In some cases anger turned to violence.
The main victims were staffers and members of Americans for Prosperity-Michigan, a conservative organization that had a tent on the east lawn of the state capitol during the protests.
The tent sported a banner that said “worker freedom,” and that was apparently enough to incite the mob.
Around noon a group of union thugs reportedly knocked down the tent, threw rocks and other items at AFP staffers and chased them off the capitol lawn.
On Thursday leaders of AFP held a press conference at the capitol to demand an investigation of the incident and the alleged lack of police response, according to a report from the Lansing State Journal.
Tim Bos, of the Michigan Freedom to Work Coalition, said union thugs were throwing rocks, beer cans and swinging sticks at right to work supporters near the AFP tent. He said a friend approached nearby Lansing police officers for help, but the officers only laughed and failed to offer assistance.
AFP staffers say they made numerous calls to the 911 police dispatch line and never received a response.
Doug DuRussel, who uses a wheelchair, said he was inside the tent when protesters started to untie some of the straps that held it up. He said various protesters shoved him and kicked his wheelchair.
“People were telling me to go away, telling me that I should be ashamed,” he said.
“It was just outrageous,” Tarver, who is black, was quoted as saying. “They said I was on the wrong side. They called me ‘Uncle Tom.’ They called me the ‘n’ word.”
Scott Hagerstrom, director of AFP-Michigan, was particularly upset by the lack of police response to calls for help. He called on Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and other officials to investigate the incident.
“There were people who could have been seriously injured,” Hagerstrom said during the press conference. “We want to know why 911 calls were ignored, why there was no follow-up on those calls.”
A state police official said there was a response to the calls, but by the time officers managed to get through the huge crowd the incident was over and people had dispersed.
In an editorial published Wednesday, the Oakland Press said the violence hurt the union cause.
“The right to protest is one of the fundamental freedoms we enjoy,” the editorial said. “But no one has the right to do violence upon another human being nor tear down or burn buildings to make their point.
“Violence begets violence. It never makes its point because the people only remember the sounds of people screaming and images of rage.
“Union rights in Michigan took a step backward, not because of the new legislation, but because of the unacceptable mob behavior of protesters.”