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Right-to-work supporters say their 1st Amendment rights were violated

Supporters of Michigan's new Right-to-Work law say they were attacked on the Capitol grounds Tuesday by union members.   Now they want a formal investigation.

During Tuesday’s anti-Right to Work demonstration on the state capitol grounds, union members tore down a tent set up by the legislation’s supporters.    About a dozen members of Americans for Prosperity were caught in the tent as it collapsed.   They claim they were punched and kicked and had property stolen and destroyed. 

Scott Hagerstrom is with AFP.   He says his group's first amendment rights were trampled on along with their tent.

“Any reasonable person that has turned on the news in the past few days can see that property was destroyed…people were assaulted,” Hagerstrom said during a news conference today on the spot on the state capitol grounds where their tent had previously stood.

Hagerstrom has filed paperwork with the state police asking for a formal investigation.   The department had not begun an investigation of the incident because no complaint had been filed.    

A state police spokesman says the investigation will use whatever resources are available and could take several months.  He says identifying individuals may be difficult, though if any of those individuals gave interviews to the news media that might be helpful identifying suspects. 

Several of the people who were in the tent, and claim to have been assaulted or their property stolen or destroyed,  say they may also file complaints with the Michigan State Police.

The group is also considering filing a complaint with the federal Justice Department.

AFP’s Scott Hagerstrom is also critical of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who praised the union protesters shortly after the tent incident.   Bernero was part of a group of pro-union speakers who addressed the crowd after the state House approved the Right to Work legislation.     The mayor called the large turnout of union supporters a “beautiful” sight.  

Bernero’s office issued a statement today saying the mayor “Abhors violence in any form.”    The statement went on to say the mayor “has directed the Lansing Police Department to cooperate fully with the Michigan State Police in their investigation of any acts of violence that occurred at the protest.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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