Michigan AG asserts Lansing Capitol is unsafe as expected armed protest looms

Armed protest expected in Lansing on Sunday

FILE - In this April 30, 2020 file photo, a protester carries his rifle at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich. A plot to kidnap Michigan's governor had put a focus on the security of governors who have faced protests and threats over their handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The threats have come from people who oppose business closures and restrictions on social gatherings. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

LANSING, Mich. – With protests expected at Michigan’s Capitol on Sunday, the state Attorney General is calling out the Capitol Commission for not investing in safety measures she believes are necessary to protect the building and those working inside from violence.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has deemed the security measures in place at the state Capitol insufficient, even after the Capitol Commission recently banned the open carry of firearms inside the building.

After the deadly Jan. 6 pro-Trump attack on the U.S. Capitol, and months after armed right-wing demonstrators stormed the Michigan Capitol, the state commission unanimously voted on Jan. 11 to prohibit the open carry of firearms inside the Capitol Building. Nessel and other Michigan officials have criticized the ban for not going far enough to account for concealed firearms -- particularly because people who enter the building are not required to first walk through a metal detector.

“(We) don’t even have metal detectors ... you’re going to allow people to walk in ... they could be wearing a coat under which they conceal multiple weapons, they could be carrying bags, they could be carrying explosive devices -- that’s not a safe set of circumstances,” Nessel said during an interview on MSNBC Friday. “We have to do better to protect the seat of government here in the state of Michigan.”

More: ‘Michigan Capitol is not safe’: AG Dana Nessel warns new ban on firearms not sufficient

Now, after the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has warned that armed protests are planned at all 50 state capitols leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, and with protests expected Sunday in Michigan’s capital city, Nessel is arguing that -- at the very least -- metal detectors are necessary to help law enforcement agencies prevent violence at the Capitol Building.

“There are domestic terrorist groups in our state who have planned a massacre of epic proportions at the Capitol. (ie-see those indicted in the plot re the Gov),” Nessel tweeted on Saturday, referencing the group of domestic terrorists who plotted to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year. “(Without) metal detectors, the law (enforcement) agencies charged with security are virtually helpless to prevent such an incident.”

According to Nessel, every Michigan courthouse, several other government buildings and all federal government buildings require visitors to first walk through a metal detector upon entering. The Michigan AG alluded Friday that the lack of metal detectors may be due to beliefs that they “infringe” upon people’s rights.

“Alexander Graham Bell invented the first metal detector in 1881 -- I don’t think it’s such a stretch, and it doesn’t impugn on people’s rights, to have to walk through a metal detector,” Nessel said on MSNBC. “But we’re at this place right now where even that’s too much; that’s too much of an ‘infringement’ on people’s rights.”

The Lansing Capitol Building will be closed over the weekend, and lawmakers will not be in session, amid the expected protests. The city is also preparing for any potential violence that may occur during the protest, with a heavy police presence planned and 6-foot fencing constructed around the building. Officials say he weekend’s police presence will be a coordinated effort between the National Guard, Michigan State Police, federal authorities and other local law enforcement agencies.

More: Michigan law enforcement on armed Capitol protests this weekend: ‘We will be prepared’

With a number of measures in place, Nessel says she is not necessarily concerned for lawmakers’ safety this weekend, but more so when the Legislature continues to meet in the days after the expected protest.

“I feel fairly comfortable this weekend, but what about ... next week -- when, as far as I know, the Michigan Legislature remains scheduled to meet,” Nessel said Friday. “Pursuant to our Open Meetings Act, it has to be open to the public.”

The GOP-led Michigan Legislature has officially canceled sessions for next week due to “credible threats regarding events scheduled to take place at and around the state Capitol.”

In an effort to help prevent any potential future violence at the state Capitol, Nessel tweeted Saturday that she would personally help acquire funding to purchase and install metal detectors inside the building.

“If cost is the issue, I will personally lobby the Fed (government) for a grant, raise the $ from private donors, or find a company willing to gift the SOM metal detectors for the Capitol Building,” Nessel wrote on Twitter. “There are multiple ways to find the $. What is the price of lost lives from such an event?”

The Michigan AG went on to say that she intends to use her role in office to help protect human lives and do “what is right.”

“I refuse to stop pushing for the safety of our state residents and those who visit our state. This is a simple, common sense measure already utilized in the vast majority of states in America,” Nessel tweeted.

“If this makes me a jerk, so be it. If hurt feelings are the sacrifice for saving human lives, I can live with it. Not using my office to encourage what (is) right means others cannot,” Nessel continued. “The Capitol is not safe.”

Just after the insurrection in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, Michigan’s Capitol Building was closed due to a threat. Michigan State Police brought in a bomb squad and K-9 unit on the morning of Jan. 7 to inspect the building regarding a threat made. The all-clear was eventually given. Officials did not share what the specific threat was.

Still, some local lawmakers could not help but draw a connection between the recent, violent extremist attack that occurred at the U.S. Capitol and threats of violence that have taken place on Michigan’s soil this year and last.

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor is urging everyone to avoid the Downtown area as expected protests loom this weekend.

Read: Michigan Capitol on alert ahead of expected protest at noon Sunday

In light of expected demonstrations at the Capitol Building this Sunday, I urge everyone to avoid coming to the Capitol...

Posted by Andy Schor on Saturday, January 16, 2021

“In light of expected demonstrations at the Capitol Building this Sunday, I urge everyone to avoid coming to the Capitol and surrounding area,” Schor wrote on Facebook Saturday. “Downtown Lansing residents should consider planning ahead to stay inside and avoid this demonstration.”

Government buildings have been boarded up in Lansing, and the Michigan National Guard has been activated by Gov. Whitmer in preparation of the expected armed protest Sunday.

Police are encouraging anyone who is not attending the demonstration to completely avoid the Downtown Lansing area.

Related: Fearing death, lawmakers obtain body armor, armed guards in wake of Capitol siege