LANSING, Mich. — Gun-carrying protesters have been a common sight at some demonstrations calling for coronavirus-related restrictions to be lifted.
But an armed militia’s involvement in an angry protest in the Michigan statehouse Thursday marked an escalation that drew condemnation and shone a spotlight on the practice of bringing weapons to protest.
For some observers, the images of armed men in tactical gear at a state Capitol were an unsettling symbol of rising tensions in a nation grappling with crisis.
Others saw evidence of racial bias in the way the protesters were treated by police.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has denounced as "disturbing" the protest that occurred at the state Capitol.
"Yesterday's scene at the Capitol was disturbing, to be quite honest," Whitmer said at a news conference Friday in Lansing. "Swastikas and Confederate flags, nooses and automatic rifles do not reflect who we are as Michiganders."
Some protesters — many without face coverings — entered the Capitol on Thursday and demanded to be let onto the House floor, which is not allowed.
"I know that some people are angry. And I know many are feeling restless. I know that people are itching to get back to work. And I get it. And I respect it," Whitmer said. "And it's OK to feel that way. There's nothing that I want more than to just flip the switch and return to normal. But that's now how it's going to work, unfortunately."
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Hundreds protest Gov. Whitmer's stay-home order on April 30
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