Right to Work advocates want tent teardown, lack of help investigated

By Sam Inglot
Scott Hagerstrom, director of Americans for Prosperity-Michigan, stands at a podium in front of supporters who say they were victims of violence at Tuesday\'s protests. They want an investigation. Sam Inglot/City Pulse

Americans for Prosperity wants answers from Mayor Bernero, the county and Michigan State Police

Thursday, Dec. 13 — Two days after their tent was torn down allegedly by Right to Work protesters, advocates of the legislation want an investigation of the violence and what they say was a lack of police response.

About 20 people stood behind Scott Hagerstrom, director of Americans for Prosperty-Michigan, as he spoke at a podium on the lawn of the Capitol Building today. About half of those people, including Hagerstrom, told the media in attendance about — as Hagerstrom put it — “union violence” they experienced on Tuesday at the Right to Work protests.

About 10,000 people were at the Capitol Tuesday, most of them protesting bills signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder that makes paying union dues for public- and private-sector employees optional. Michigan became the 24th state with Right to Work laws.

Hagerstrom said “several” calls to 911 were made by Right to Work supporters as a “mob” of protesters tore down the Americans for Prosperity tent on the east lawn of the Capitol around noon. He said they never got a response to the 911 calls and there was no “follow-up” from the call center after the incident.

Shortly following the tent going down, several horse-mounted police and State Police troopers forced the protesters off the remnants of the tent. Hagerstrom said he and others were “chased” off the Capitol lawn.

Hagerstrom said the lack of emergency response “needs to be investigated” by Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III and the Michigan State Police. Hagerstrom said they filed a police report with the Michigan State Police Capitol post today. He said he has not spoken to Bernero or Dunnings.

Hagerstrom said they’re working on assessing the value of the two tents that were torn down. AFP rented one tent while the other tent was rented by Involve America, a pro-RTW group. Hagerstrom said the estimated value of the tents is $10,000 each.

The other people that spoke said they were intimidated, harassed and assaulted by anti-RTW protesters, including Clint Tarver, a hot dog vendor who had some of his equipment destroyed while he was catering in one of the tents. MLive.com reports that Tarver’s wife, Linda Tarver, is alleging that “racially charged verbal attacks” were also directed at her husband during the chaos.

Hagerstrom said he is encouraging people to file their own police reports.

Tim Bos, co-founder of Michigan Freedom to Work Coalition, said the union “mob” was throwing rocks, beer cans and “swinging sticks” at the RTW supporters outside of the tent. Bos said one of his friends went to ask Lansing Police who were near the Capitol for help. He claims they “laughed at him” and did not assist them.

“What the hell is going on here?” Bos asked angrily today, saying he also wanted to see an investigation. Bos said the situation devolved into “tyranny and anarchy.”

Hagerstrom suggested the violence may have been part of the unions’ plans all along. He cited a message to retired Michigan Education Association members that called on them to “cause mayhem,” as well as union-led civil disobedience training that took place in Dearborn.