MONDAY, June 8 — Civil rights protesters openly carrying two shotguns stepped off from the Capitol shortly after 6 tonight to march to Frandor.
That followed protest leader Paul Birdsong’s announcement last night that protesters were armed and would protect themselves if attacked.
Earlier last night, a white truck rammed a protester’s car as protesters walked and drove from the Capitol to Mayor Andy Schor’s house, according to Birdsong. He said a protester then produced a weapon, but Birdsong told him to put it away and the truck’s driver to leave, which he said he did. He identified the driver as a white man. Police have not returned a request for any confirmation of the incident.
Before protesters left the Capitol, two Lansing Police officers questioned Birdsong about whether he was carrying weapons in his vehicle. Birdsong said they told him they had heard a report of a video showing him loading them into his vehicle.
Birdsong confirmed he had two legally registered shotguns. They advised him that he could be charged with a firearms violation if he transported them without separating the weapons from the ammo. Birdsong said he readily agreed to do so.
Birdsong then openly carried one shotgun while demonstrators organized themselves for the ninth night of protests stemming from the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Birdsong has led the protests for the last eight nights, all of which have been peaceful. That followed a night of unrest in downtown Lansing two Sundays ago, when police used tear gas to break up a crowd after a car was burned, windows were broken and plastic water bottles and possibly rocks were thrown at police.
After speaking to Birdsong, one of the officers called Birdsong a “nice guy” before they left.
About 100 protesters marched toward Frandor. Birdsong passed the shotguns to two protesters whom he said had open carry permits.
The protesters walked north on Capitol Avenue to Saginaw Street to Frandor, where they stopped in front of Kroger. They were accompanied by police, who blocked many streets for a march that lasted more than five hours.
Along the way, they laid prone at the intersection of US 127 and Saginaw. They chanted George Floyd’s last words as Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin choked the life out of him with his knee: “Get off my neck,” “I can’t breathe,” “Loosen my handcuffs, please.”
At Frandor, Lansing Police Officer Jacob Kocan asked everyone to “be safe.”
“I like you guys,” he told Birdsong. “I just don’t want some jackass in a car to come after you. At the end of the day, I don’t want anyone to die.”
He also told him not to let anyone sit in truck beds, which is illegal in some circumstances.
“You go get prepared,” Birdsong told him. “We’re about to hit the streets.”
As they returned to Saginaw, protesters thanked the police.
And they also chanted: “What do we want? Andy outta here,” referring to Schor.
As they returned to the Capitol — where they have tentative plans to stay overnight tomorrow — Birdsong declared victory in today’s battle.
“We took the highway, right?” he declared.
“Yeahhh!” the crowd responded.
“It’s our highway!”