A COVID-19 face-off: The day militias stormed Michigan’s capitol
The Boogaloo Boys stood on the steps of the Capitol Building during a rally on October 17, 2020 in Lansing, Michigan. The Boogaloo boys called it a ÔUnity RallyÕ in an attempt to distance themselves from the Wolverine Watchmen who plotted to kidnap Michigans Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Two of the men arrested in the plot were affiliated with the Boogaloo Boys. (Photo by Seth Herald-Getty Images/GroundTruth)
On April 30, 2020, hundreds of protesters, some affiliated with a wast array of armed right-wing militia groups, stormed the capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, demanding the resignation of Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
The COVID-19 pandemic had been surging for just over a month and the state was under a stay-at-home order issued by the Governor. People were out of work, locked down in their homes and uncertain of what the future would hold. In the state, over 3,700 people had lost their lives to the coronavirus and 22 percent of the population was unemployed. When Governor Whitmer announced that she would be signing an order to extend lockdown restrictions even further, hundreds organized a protest to bring their frustrations to her door.
Beneath a cold spring rain, the militia groups, including the Michigan Liberty Militia, Boogaloo Bois and other non-aligned protestors, first postured with their weapons and waved flags on the steps of the capitol building. The squeaking of military boots could be heard beneath chants demanding for the governor’s resignation as they entered the capitol building through a side door, disrupting the Senate hearing on extending lockdown orders. For safety, temperatures were checked at the door by Michigan State Police.
“Let us in!” they shouted.
“You work for us!” they chanted in unison, face to face with other State Police Officers guarding the chamber doors and armed with only their service pistols. Governor Whitmer was not in her office at the time.
On October 8, 2020, the FBI announced they had foiled a plot to kidnap and murder Governor Whitmer. The founding member of the conspiring militia, identified by the FBI and Michigan State Police as Pete Musico, was photographed in front of the governor’s door on April 30. Twelve other men, including at least four present at this protest would also be arrested in morning raids by the FBI and Michigan State Police for allegedly plotting to kidnap the Governor.
I didn’t have a particular method to make these images. I remember being very aware of how historical the moments taking place in front of me were as I covered the first“Operation Gridlock” on April 15, 2020 and then the occupation of the Capitol Building on April 30, 2020.
One image that particularly sticks out is the image of the militia members standing in front of the Governor’s door. To me, it was a clear attempt at intimidating the Governor. After taking the photo, I remember talking to my fiancee and a colleague who were both there photographing that day as well, and asking: What does this lead to?