The visuals of a mob storming into a legislative building caught many off-guard. No, not events in Washington D.C. this week, but the pro-Trump, anti-pandemic lockdown protest in the Michigan Capitol last April. Armed men stood in the state Senate gallery while lawmakers were on the floor; violence was just a trigger-pull away.
State Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) was one of the lawmakers on the floor of the chamber that day. “We saw Confederate flags and swastikas and nooses, and Trump flags and people who were clearly there as anti-government extremists,” she says. “We saw that play out again in D.C.(this week).”
In an interview with WDET’s Russ McNamara, she expressed frustration with the current political climate and the inability of Republicans to control the violent extremists within that party.
Click the audio player above to hear Sen. Mallory McMorrow’s conversations’s Russ McNamara and read excerpts from the Q&A below, edited for length and clarity.
WDET’s Russ McNamara: Without consequences, it seems like a green light for more extreme behavior. Who does that burden fall upon? Why weren’t there consequences before and who is enabling this?
Sen. McMorrow: I think that we are in a climate right now where there is a political divide, there is a cultural divide. And I think that there is a desire for people in leadership positions, people in law enforcement, to not poke the bear, and to want to get back to normal and to move on. But when that happens, and there are no consequences, you allow it to happen again. And we saw this, I talked about this on Twitter, where we saw the April, protests happen in Lansing. There were no consequences. People came into the Capitol, they were heavily armed. They were taunting us. They were trying to get on to the House floor and the Senate floor. And everybody just went home. And then months later, we learned from the FBI and the Attorney General that there was a detailed kidnapping plot, a domestic terrorist plot, and an attempt to want to overthrow the Capitol and take hostages and do public executions. That’s my fear with this is that we saw people getting escorted out of the U.S. Capitol and sent home. And if we learned anything from Michigan, it’s that April was the beginning, not the end.
Following that incident in April, the Michigan Capitol Commission and Republican leaders punted on whether to allow guns in the Capitol. As it stands, you can still do that. Do you think the political will is there now for a firearm ban?
I think there has to be. It would be absolutely ludicrous to not put a ban in place right now. I was thinking about it yesterday, and I stayed on the floor when we had armed protesters sitting above me in the gallery. Watching the footage of what played out in the U.S. Capitol yesterday on the Senate floor was hard because there was nothing to stop those protesters in April from coming onto the floor if they really wanted to. We have to look at this climate right now and realize there are people out there who don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, they just want to cause chaos. They’re following this president and they want to overthrow the government. We have to put safety measures in place to protect everybody who is in these buildings and relies on the government to function.
Editors note: After this interview was completed, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) changed course and announced his support for an open carry ban in the Michigan Capitol. Shirkey would still allow those with conceal carry permits to be inside the facility with guns.
Representative Matt Maddock (R-Milford) spoke at a D.C. rally on Tuesday. His wife Meshawn is said to become the co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party with the full-fledged support of Ron Weiser, who is going to be her co-chair. Is that concerning? The same people who were fomenting insurrection are now engrained in Michigan conservative politics.
It’s devastating. I represent one of the most evenly split political districts in the state — it is almost a 50-50 Republican/Democrat district. It’s in Oakland County and I just feel like there is this rift in the Republican Party between Trumpism and traditional Republicans. I think we saw that play out in the U.S. Capitol yesterday. Between (Mitch) McConnell (R-KY) finally putting out a statement saying it’s over and Mitt Romney (R-UT) saying that we have to tell people the truth. And at the same time, the president finally put out a video statement yesterday and the first words out of his mouth were the “election was stolen.” We know that it’s false, but we have the Maddocks backing him up and falling in line with that. To me, that is heartbreaking to watch, if this is the direction that the state and local Republican Party is going to go because I know it’s not where most people are.
Do you think it’s on Republicans to “take care of their own” and get rid of this more extremist, more fringe group?
I think it has to be on Republican leadership to no longer wink and nod to extremists, to violence, to QAnon, to conspiracy theories for political gain, because it’s dangerous. If you play with fire, you’re gonna get burned. If the President had come out physically yesterday, and told these people to stop, I don’t know that they would have stopped, I think it’s too late. You have to take care of your own. So I don’t know if that means there’s a split. I don’t know if that means there becomes a Trump party and a Republican party. But for the good of my district in the state and the country, we need the parties to function and to be able to debate… but debate with reality and facts and not be bullied by extremist conspiracy theorists.