Armed protesters take part in an American Patriot Rally organized by Michigan United for Liberty on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on April 30, 2020, calling for businesses to reopen.
Jeff Kowalsky | AFP | Getty Images
Michigan’s Secretary of State on Friday banned the open carrying of weapons at polling stations and other official polling stations on Election Day in the state, a move following an alleged conspiracy Kidnapping Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and after armed protests in the statehouse.
“Fair, free and safe elections are the foundation of our democracy.” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said at the announcement of the open-carry ban, which is supported by the Attorney General and the State Police.
“I am committed to ensuring that all eligible Michigan citizens can freely exercise their basic voting rights without fear of threats, intimidation or harassment,” said Benson, Michigan’s chief electoral officer.
“The ban on the open carrying of firearms in areas where citizens cast their ballots is necessary to ensure that every voter is protected.”
Benson outlined the ban in a guide for local election officials.
The ban on opening firearms applies to polling stations, clerks, and absentee voter counters on Election Day, which is November 3rd and extends 100 feet from those locations.
These guidelines stated that “the presence of firearms in” these locations “may cause disruption, fear or intimidation to voters, poll workers and others present.”
Attorney General Dana Nessel said, “Michigan voters have the right to vote in person on election day without threat or intimidation.”
“Having an armed presence in the elections is contrary to our vision of free democracy. I stand by the secretary in her commitment to ensuring that anyone who chooses to vote in person can do so safely and without fear or intimidation.”
Trump barely won against Michigan in his 2016 competition Hillary Clintonand ousted the Democrats by only 0.23% of the votes cast. The state was one of several in the rust belt that played a vital role in giving Trump enough votes to defeat the former U.S. Secretary of State on the electoral college.
However, recent polls show that Biden leads Trump in Michigan by an average of more than six percentage points.
Trump has been criticizing Whitmer for her response to the Covid-19 outbreak since last spring.
Earlier this month, federal authorities arrested six men related to allegedly planning to kidnap WhitmerOne of these defendants allegedly said the group would convict the governor of “treason”.
Terrorism charges were brought against eight other men who allegedly offer assistance to the program in an attempt to spark civil war and commit acts of violence against law enforcement officers in the state. All fourteen defendants are believed to be members or employees of militia groups, including one called the Wolverine Watchmen.
Michigan’s State House was also the site of protests by gunmen who were angry with Whitmer’s strict lockdown orders against corporations and other businesses earlier this year over the coronavirus outbreak.
Alleged conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer and discussions about it, including Virginia Gov. Kidnapping Ralph Northam, another Democrat were fueled by anger over their Covid-19 lockdown measures.
Following armed protests by members of militia groups and others in the state capital, Trump tweeted “Liberate Michigan!” In April.
Whitmer and Nessel have said that Trump’s rhetoric may have played a role in sparking the alleged conspiracy.
Whitmer has called Trump an “accomplice,” while Nessel said of Trump’s elected officials and Republicans, “When they say these things, people don’t just listen, they answer … It’s not just a dog whistle, it’s a gathering cry. “”
At least one of the men charged with kidnapping, Brandon Caserta, has reportedly posted messages criticizing Trumpand refers to the president as a “tyrant”.
“Trump is not your friend, dude. I am amazed that when he is shown over and over again, people actually believe that he is a bully,” Caserta said in a video circulated online, the Detroit News reported . “Every single person who works for the government is your enemy, dude.”
Several Caserta co-defendants reportedly posted pro-Trump messages on social media.
Trump continued to attack Whitmer for her policies, even after the alleged act of abduction was exposed.
Trump beat up Whitmer during a Fox business interview on Thursday, accusing her of being a “dictator”.
“Michigan, it has to open up,” said Trump. “She wants to be a dictator in Michigan and the people don’t like her.”