Group plans complaint in tent incident at right-to-work protests

1:47 PM, Dec 13, 2012   |    comments
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Photo from the Lansing State Journal

(LANSING STATE JOURNAL) - Michigan State Police will investigate all acts of violence or destruction of property that occurred during Tuesday's right-to-work legislation protest - but victims will need to file complaints first, a state police spokeswoman said Wednesday.

That includes Fox News contributor Steven Crowder, who can be seen on a viral video being punched in the face by an alleged union protester. The video has quickly made the rounds on social media sites, as well as conservative websites.

"We were not there when that occurred," said Shanon Banner, public affairs director for the Michigan State Police. "The victim has not made a complaint, so there is no investigation. Now, if that person comes forward, we would thoroughly investigate it."

Overall, police said, Tuesday's protest was remarkably peaceful given the number of people and the emotions involved.

More than 12,000 descended on the Capitol lawn and surrounding government buildings to protest right-to-work legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder at the end of the day. Three people were arrested, all on charges of misdemeanor disorderly conduct, Banner said. They have not been released yet pending arraignment.

Banner credited unions for helping to diffuse conflicts by appointing several people as members of a "peace team." They made the rounds through the crowd to calm tensions.

"The problems we had were isolated and involved just a small group of individuals," Banner said. "There was the potential for clashes among the protesters and counter-groups, but we had very few incidents considering the size of the crowd."

Complaint likely

Americans for Prosperity, a group that rented tents and put them on the Capitol lawn to use as home-base for supporters of the right-to-work bills, will file a complaint with state police and seek charges against the people who the group says tore down their tents, said Annie Patnaude, deputy state director for AFP-Michigan.

"Union protesters, after the bills were passed, were looting anything they could find and continuing to destroy the tent," Patnaude said. "There was very little that was recovered. We're in the process of sitting down and making a list of damage and the stolen, destroyed property."

Banner said that once a complaint is made, police will review all videos and photos as part of their investigation.

Police already have reviewed a video taken outside the tent as it was torn down that shows a state trooper pushing two protesters to the ground. A liberal group called Progress Michigan called it an example of excessive force.

Banner said police acted appropriately.

"We've talked to the troopers involved and that individual did attempt to grab a baton and pull (the trooper) out of formation," Banner said. "At that point, they could have considered making an arrest but that would've brought them out of formation and made them more vulnerable. From our perspective in viewing the video, the trooper responded with the appropriate level of force based on the threat he was under."

Working together

Republicans and Democrats rallied behind a Lansing hot dog vendor named Clint Tarver, whose catering supplies were destroyed when one of the AFP tents was torn down. He had been hired by AFP to serve their members. An online fundraiser drew donations from across the political spectrum and topped $22,900 by 10:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Ari Adler, spokesman for Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger, complimented the support for Tarver and the handful of union members he saw Tuesday night cleaning up the Capitol lawn.

"That's the kind of thing people need to know about, too," he said.

Lansing State Journal

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