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Lansing mayor asks Gov. Whitmer to activate National Guard amid turmoil

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Lansing Mayor Andy Schor has asked Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to activate the National Guard for armed demonstrations that are expected to take place in the coming days at the state Capitol.

The letter comes as the Michigan State Capitol Commission announced plans to erect a six-foot fence around the state Capitol Friday ahead of an expected armed protest Sunday, a security measure that hasn't been in place since the Ku Klux Klan held rallies on the Capitol grounds in the mid-1990s. 

Schor sent a letter to Whitmer on Tuesday afternoon. He specifically requested the National Guard be activated on Sunday and Jan. 20 — which is inauguration day — to provide "additional security," to help with "crowd control measures" and "to ensure that our historic Capitol building as well as the businesses and offices that surround it are safe."

Schor's request came six days after thousands of President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol as Congress met to count electoral votes. Lawmakers had to evacuate their chambers, five people died, dozens of people have been arrested, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to probe the insurrection.

Michigan State Police, in medical masks, on the sides of the lawn of the Michigan Capitol.

The governor's office is monitoring the situation closely and "will ensure that the necessary security measures are in place," Whitmer's spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said.

Michigan State Police will have an increased presence Sunday at the Capitol to address any issues stemming from an expected armed march on the Capitol, said John Truscott, vice chairman for the Michigan State Capitol Commission. Police will not be boarding up windows but will have plywood on hand, he said. 

Truscott said the state does not have any credible information on planned damage or violence. 

But he said, "I don’t think anyone wants to take a chance, either, given what’s happened in other places.”

Earlier Tuesday, Peter Spadafore, the president of the Lansing City Council, said Michigan needs to be "prepared for the worst" and urged Schor to ask Whitmer to deploy the Michigan National Guard "to help ensure that any First Amendment activities remain peaceful and that our residents are safe."

"What has been reported could very well be overblown, and these demonstrations may not reflect what we saw unfold in Washington, D.C., last week, but I believe it is imperative we take every precaution to ensure the best possible outcome to ensure the safety of our residents and those that peacefully gather," Spadafore wrote.

The FBI has warned of potential armed protests at all 50 state capitals ahead of President Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. On Friday, the social media platform Twitter said plans for potential armed protests had already begun, including "a proposed secondary attack on the U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings" on Sunday.

A document that's been circulated online calls for an "armed march" on all state capitol buildings on Sunday.

"When democracy is destroyed, refuse to be silenced," the document says.

To residents of Lansing who are nervous about what's ahead, Schor said, “My recommendation right now is on Sunday and again on the 20th ... to stay away from the Capitol building."

The Lansing Police Department is working with the Michigan State Police and other agencies to ensure the safety and security of our downtown, Schor added.

"For 213 years, the United States has had peaceful transfers of power," the mayor said. "What happened at the U.S. Capitol last week was an attack on our democracy. We will see a transfer of power and inauguration of President Joe Biden.

"Unfortunately, Lansing and all state capitals must be ready to protect against those that would use violence to protest this transfer of power."

On Monday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers authorized the Wisconsin National Guard to support the Wisconsin Capitol Police. Also, on Monday,the Michigan Capitol Commission voted to ban the open carry of guns inside Michigan's Capitol, which has experienced a series of protests over the last 10 months.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the building is currently only open when there is official business taking place inside.

cmauger@detroitnews.com