A conservative “American Patriot Rally” at the Capitol tonight had visitors: the civil rights protesters who have been demonstrating for weeks in downtown Lansing.
About 300 people showed up around 6 p.m. for the rally in support of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Some carried them openly.
About 40 civil rights protesters, led by Paul Birdsong, joined them by lying on the ground among the Second Amendment protesters. They lay prone on the Capitol grounds in memory of George Floyd, the Black man who was killed by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.
Birdsong’s group, which is called Free People of Lansing, first gathered in Ferris Park near the Capitol. About 40 of them then went to the Capitol.
Before they left, Birdsong told them not to bring weapons. Birdsong announced two weeks ago that some of his protesters were armed to protect themselves in light of threats they have received.
As the civil rights protesters lay on the ground, the pro-gun protesters gave a round of applause for “men and women in blue.”
The two protests were peaceful. Some Patriot protesters grumbled about the presence of the civil rights protesters, but others urged their compatriots to stay calm.
“I feel sad for them,” said Patriot protester Victoria McCasey, 63, of Fenton. “They don’t understand what we’re doing or what our cause is.
“They’re giving up their freedom,” she said. “I don’t know what they’re being paid or what they’ve been promised. But whatever it is, it’s not worth their freedom.
“I support their right to protest,” she added, “but I really feel they’re being cheated.”
“I don’t know what they’ve been through, and they don’t know what I’ve been through. If we could get together and learn from each other, that would be great.”
About half of the Patriot Rally protesters raised their hands when a speaker asked them if they belong to militias.
“The patriot is a brave person,” said the speaker, Matt Krol, who ran unsuccessfuly for sheriff of Genesee County in 2016. “They don’t get money from George Soros to come here. They don’t get money from Whitler.”
Soros is a billionaire investor who supports liberal causes. “Whitler” is a reference to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that conflates her name with that Adolph Hitler.
“I’m a racist,” added Krol. “I cannot stand Whitmer.”
As the Patriot Rally wrapped up, one of its attendees, Greg Alexander, 50, of Stanton, defended the First Amendment rights of both sets of protesters.
"What they're fighting for, I agree with it, George Floyd and everything," Alexander said. "That was awful. He shouldn;t have died.
"But I've worked hand in hand with officers for 23 years running an ambulance. There are a lot of good officers ut there. Don't put them all in the same group. You have a few bad ones? Put them in prison."