Right-to-work proponents demand justice for violence

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LANSING, Mich. — Conservative activists and supporters of Michigan’s new right-to-work law gathered on the Statehouse lawn Thursday to demand justice for what they said were threats, intimidation and entrapment under a tent that was destroyed by union supporters during protests two days earlier by thousands of labor union activists.

Scott Hagerstrom, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Michigan, said he had filed a police report for assault and destruction of property with the Michigan State Police’s Capitol post after aggressive pro-union forces used knives and box cutters to cut open a tent his group had set up on the Statehouse lawn to express their support for the state’s right-to-work legislation.

The collapsing of the large white tent – and punches thrown at a Fox News Channel contributor – on the scene were caught on tape and have aired widely in the days since Michigan Republicans pushed through legislation that union leaders say will undercut their funding and bargaining power.

Mr. Hagerstrom claimed state police on the Capitol grounds did nothing – even after repeated 911 calls – to stop the onslaught, during which frightened right-to-work supporters were shouted down with profanity, spat on, shoved and threatened with violence. Some had to be pulled from the downed tent.

He is asking law enforcement, along with city prosecutors and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, to investigate the incident and said his members deserved protection on the “public square.”

“We were very lucky no one was hurt. People were inside the tent when it was destroyed,” Mr. Hagerstrom said at a news conference outside the Michigan Statehouse, guarded by four Michigan state troopers. “This strikes at the heart of democracy. We believe strongly that this needs to be investigated.”

The AFL-CIO issued a statement condemning the attacks and noted that some union members did the right thing by stepping in to assist the right-to-work group.

A tape of the melee played for reporters again Thursday shows protesters tearing down the large white rented tent, stomping on tent posts and scuffling with supporters who tried to push them back. A crowd of more than 5,000 was reported to be on the lawn at the time of the altercation. Lights inside the tent were smashed, and catering equipment owned by Lansing’s well-known “hot dog man,” Clint Tarver, was destroyed.

“I was called an Uncle Tom, the ‘N-word,’” said Mr. Tarver, who attended the news conference.

Reward offered

The Michigan Freedom Fund, a business-funded group that ran ads in support of the right-to-work law before Tuesday’s votes, has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the attackers, and are particularly protective of Mr. Tarver.

Clint Tarver is a Lansing institution, a hardworking businessman, and whether you are a Republican or Democrat, one of the kindest, most selfless individuals you will ever meet,” said Greg McNeilly, president of the organization. “The union thugs who destroyed Clint’s hot dog business while shouting racial slurs must be held accountable.”

Meanwhile, a private online fundraising effort to help the vendor has tapped into a well of unexpected generosity. The “I Support Clint” outreach intended to raise $5,000. Within 24 hours, the effort brought in $30,000 from about 1,300 donors.

“Please do not make this a political issue. This is not about politics; this is about supporting Clint. Thank you for respecting that,” organizer Lorilea Susanne advised potential donors.

Activists who escaped the downed tent said they especially feared that propane tanks used to heat the tent and cooking equipment could have exploded. One said a group of Lansing police officers stood by watching the attack and did not attempt to stop it.

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