As thousands gathered at Michigan's state Capitol Tuesday to protest right-to-work legislation, things got out of hand both before and after the state's House of Representatives passed laws that make union membership and paying dues voluntary.

Michigan right-to-work protests: 4 ways things got out of hand

As thousands gathered at Michigan's state Capitol Tuesday to protest right-to-work legislation, things got out of hand both before and after the state's House of Representatives passed laws that make union membership and paying dues voluntary.

Storified by Digital First Media · Tue, Dec 11 2012 14:51:23


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An anti right-to-work protester, left, and a pro right-to-work protester yell at each other outside of Michigan's state capital building in Lansing, Dec. 11, 2012. (REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)

Protesters tear down, rip up tents

Two tents being used by right-to-work supporters were torn down by protesters Tuesday, reports Reuters.

"There were union members in the bright fluorescent vests telling people not to do it, but the mob mentality took over ... It got pretty violent," said John Truscott, who watched the tent destruction unfold from the nearby building where he works. 

Truscott said the tents were not just torn down, but ripped up, too. 

"There are big holes in it," Truscott said. "That tent will never be set up again." 
Union members tear down tents at right-to-work protestdetnewsvideo
This tent destroyed by #RTW protesters is valued at more than $4,000 (my family used to be in the tent rental business) http://pic.twitter.com/Ozk1k2a7Chad Livengood

Riot police arrest 2 outside Michigan governor's office 

Two people were arrested trying to get inside the Romney Building where Gov. Rick Snyder has an office as the protest spread
MSP is confirming two arrests this afternoon at the Romney Building. (Tweet 1/5) #rtw #righttowork #nortwmi #savemiMSP Public Affairs
When troopers attempted to enter a secure door at the Romney Building, members of the crowd tried to follow. (Tweet 2/5) #rtw #righttoworkMSP Public Affairs
Troopers were unable to get the doors closed. (Tweet 3/5) #rtw #righttowork #nortwmi #savemiMSP Public Affairs
Troopers threatened the use of O/C spray to gain compliance but did not need to utilize the spray when the crowd complied. (Tweet 4/5) #rtwMSP Public Affairs
However, two individuals who breached the door were arrested. (Tweet 5/5) #rtw #righttowork #nortwmi #savemiMSP Public Affairs

Pepper spray used by police, former congressman sprayed

"People were exercising their first amendment rights. I among them got pepper-sprayed by police officers," said Schauer, a Democrat from Battle Creek who served in Congress from 2009-2010. 

He told the Battle Creek Enquirer that police were trying to move protesters away from the state's Capitol building when he and "a number" of people were sprayed.
Mark Schauermirsnews
The Michigan State Police did confirm the use of pepper spray - though not specifically on Schauer - on Twitter and added: 
The spray was deployed because a crowd grabbed a hold of a trooper and would not release. (Tweet 2/3) #rtw #righttowork #savemi #nortwmiMSP Public Affairs

'It was just not safe on the street for anybody in a suit'

Truscott, who was formerly communications director for former Mich. Gov. John Engler, a Republican, said he was standing in front of his building Tuesday talking to some of his staff - they were returning from a meeting next door - when a protester tried starting a fight with him.
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"This guy goes walking by and yelling at me, 'Republican corruption!' and he kept yelling at me and did the 'bring it on' thing and puffed out his chest," said Truscott, who says it's not likely the protester knew of his former role with a Republican governor.

The protester left after seeing a squad of police walking up the street, said Truscott, who is now the president of the public relations firm Truscott Rossman. 

"It was just a bizarre incident," he added. "It was just not safe on the street for anybody in a suit and tie." 

State Rep. Douglas Geiss threatens 'There will be blood' 

During debate prior to the voting, State Rep. Douglas Geiss, D-Taylor, chose tough words on the House floor: 
Dem Rep. Doug Geiss threatens from house floor "THERE WILL BE BLOOD"dentonexable
Geiss' reference to 'Battle of the Overpass' is about a 1937 battle between union organizers and representatives of the Ford Motor Company that turned physical. The union organizers, including famous labor leader Walter P. Reuther, were beaten and some severely injured, according to The Henry Ford museum. The battle became a lasting symbol of labor struggles in the United States.  

Learn more about the right-to-work battle


How politics played into the Michigan vote

"Republicans hold a majority in the House and Senate, leaving Democrats little options for opposition in the ongoing debate," wrote The Oakland Press of Pontiac, Mich. The state's Republican governor, Rick Snyder, called on the legislature last week to pass a right-to-work law before the end of the year, stating very clearly: "When it arrives on my desk, I will sign it." He signed both pieces of legislation Tuesday afternoon.

Sickouts close 3 schools while teachers attend protests

The Detroit News reports that at least three Metro Detroit school districts closed Tuesday after hundreds of staff members called in absent "to join union demonstrations in Lansing against the right-to-work legislation." In one district, more than 750 staff members called in absent. 

The Michigan right-to-work battle, explained

The Washington Post breaks down the right-to-work legislation in its preview of the votes that took place Tuesday. "Currently, 23 other states have signed such measures into law," states the article. "One important thing to note: Police and firefighters could be exempt from the new law." 

Right-to-work states 
The Chicago Tribune maps the 23 states that had passed right-to-work measures before Michigan.
Tribune