A week after Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued an order banning open carry of firearms at polling stations, police and sheriffs are still refusing to enforce the order, the purpose of which is to bar extreme right-wing militias across the state from assaulting voters and potentially staging a takeover of the state Capitol. Two weeks ago, federal officials arrested 13 people in Michigan for plotting to do just this. The militiamen also planned to kidnap and execute the state’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer.
Yesterday, three right-wing organizations filed a lawsuit to overturn the order and to support the semi-rebellion by police against the state’s elected officials. These organizations are Michigan Gun Owners, Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners, and Michigan Open Carry, Inc., whose lawyer, Dean Greenblatt, has filed the suit with the Michigan Court of Claims.
Greenblatt is suing Attorney General Dana Nessel, Secretary of State Benson, and director of the Michigan State Police, Joe Gasper. When statewide police and sheriffs’ organizations came forward to say they would not enforce the order last week, Nessel stated that the state police would step in and enforce it for them. Nessel has also warned that the plot against Whitmer remains a live threat, and that what has been revealed in court so far is “just the tip of the iceberg.”
The fight over weapons at the polls in Michigan raises the question, which authorities are in charge of the state: police or the state’s elected officials? The issue is being closely followed on a national level because Trump has called for his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.” This is a blatant threat to carry out violence against voters and is a critical element of Trump’s strategy to remain in power no matter the outcome of the November 3 vote.
In a statement published on his Facebook page, Greenblatt claims that the order effectively “disenfranchises voters who wish to exercise their fundamental right to self-protection” and that “the Secretary of State requires that voters either abandon their Second Amendment right of self-protection or their fundamental right to vote.” In reality, the purpose of the lawsuit is to facilitate fascist militias’ plans to prepare right-wing violence at polling stations on election day. These are the same arguments made by representatives of the state’s police and sheriffs’ associations in refusing to enforce the order.
In refusing to enforce the order, the police and sheriffs are operating with the support of the Trump campaign and state Republican leadership. Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has denounced the order against open carry at the polls. His spokeswoman, Amber McCann, derided the secretary of state’s concerns, saying, “But we recognize her actual job is not as attention-grabbing as making up firearm policies less than 20 days before an election.”
Police opponents of the order include the executive director and CEO of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, Matt Saxton, and Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy. According to Saxton, “the order was a solution in search of a problem,” while Murphy stated, “You vote where you live. The chances of having an outside influence come in and be disruptive, I don’t see that happening.” These statements are denials of the danger posed by far-right militias who were just exposed as having attempted to kidnap and murder the governor.
Another lawsuit has also been filed by Robert Davis, which echoes the argument that the order protects against a nonexistent threat. According to Davis, this recent order is “creating hysteria that simply is not there.” He goes on to state, “This secretary of state is driven by power. It’s quite evident that this is the classic example of the most egregious government overreach that I’ve witnessed.”
During the first presidential debate, President Trump ordered the fascist Proud Boys to “Stand back and stand by.” In a campaign video posted to Facebook the week before the debate, Donald Trump, Jr. urged Trump’s supporters to become part of the “army for Trump’s election security operation.” This was followed by the revelation of the plot against Whitmer by militia with ties to the anti-lockdown protests funded by Republicans close to Trump.
The Democratic Party in Michigan has made no appeal to the public about the danger to voting rights. The corporate media has not made an issue out of the fact that almost an entire state’s police and sheriffs are refusing to obey the orders of elected officials. Instead, the Democrats are relying on loyalist elements in the State Police to prevent the continuing coup attempts. They are aware that stating the truth about what is happening in Michigan would only engender opposition to the police and radicalize the population. The Democrats are appealing to the police—the very same forces in rebellion against them—as being the final arbiters of democratic rights in Michigan.
Recently, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights has announced support for having the police at the polls. The department’s director, James E. White, who retired as Detroit’s Assistant Chief of Police to take the position, stated, “The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. We take very seriously anything that interferes with that right in violation of state and federal civil rights laws.”
The presence of police at polling stations, however, will only make matters worse and will depress the vote in predominantly working class areas, where police violence is most prevalent and severe, to say nothing of the threat that the police themselves will facilitate militia intimidation against voters. In its response to the police actions, the Democratic Party is playing into Trump’s hands in this critical battleground state.