As electors within the Electoral College are set to officially vote on Monday to name Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next president and vice president, respectively, of the United States, officials in Michigan have shut down the state capitol building and legislative offices out of “credible threats” of violence that have been made in recent days.
The state’s House of Representatives and Senate offices, as well as the capitol building, have been shuttered to the public, due to the unspecified threats. Michigan’s 16 electors will receive an armed escort to the capitol in order to cast their official ballots today in the Electoral College.
“The decision was not made because of anticipated protests, but based on credible threats of violence,” explained Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for Michigan Republican Senate majority leader Mike Shirkey.
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While the nature and target of the threats have not been made public, the Michigan State Police said it was keeping an eye on social media, according to reporting from the Detroit Free Press.
On Sunday, Democratic state Rep. Kevin Hertel tweeted a screenshot of a provocative comment from a St. Clair Shores, Michigan, councilman, who wrote, “So tomorrow is the Reichstag fire?”
The comment references the burning of the German Reichstag building in 1933, which was used by the Nazi Party at the time to falsely claim that Communists were planning a violent uprising, and later led to the Reichstag Fire Decree, which abolished constitutional protections for a number of Germans, leading to the consolidation of fascist rule.
“It is a sad fact that the shameful actions by certain Republicans to smear our democratic institutions and deny the clear will of the voters has undeniably created this dangerous, hostile atmosphere,” tweeted Michigan’s Democratic House Minority Leader-elect Donna Lasinski.
President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the election results, based on unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, has been backed by hundreds of Republican lawmakers across the country, including in Michigan, who have called for overturning the outcome of the presidential race altogether.
Those calls have inspired protesters, including members of the Proud Boys, who gathered in Washington, D.C., over the weekend to protest the election’s outcome, to engage in violent actions, including the stabbing of four individuals after clashes with counterprotesters happened on Saturday. (During the presidential debates earlier this year, Trump was asked to denounce the Proud Boys, but instead told them to “stand back and stand by.”)
Michigan has become familiar with far-right violence and threats in recent months. In October, federal investigators announced they had thwarted a plot by militia members to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The conspirators planned to abduct her at her summer home, and to use explosive devices during the process in order to confuse police. The participants had gone as far as surveilling Whitmer’s home multiple times.
This is not the first time this year that Michigan officials have had to shut down the capitol building due to threats of violence. In May, the building was closed after protest groups on Facebook had posted messages calling for the lynching of Whitmer due to the state’s stay-at-home orders issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
One protester carried a fishing rod with a nude doll intended to represent Whitmer hanging by a noose attached at its end.