LANSING (WWJ/AP) - New court documents detail why police decided to lock people out of the state Capitol in December as Michigan’s contentious right-to-work law was debated.
Documents were filed Friday in Ingham County Circuit Court, where a challenge to the law is pending.
On Dec. 6, thousands of protesters infuriated by efforts to dilute the power of organized labor swarmed the Michigan Capitol as Republicans voted to make financial support of unions voluntary.
Michigan State Police Capt. Kevin McGaffigan said in a statement he made the decision to close the Capitol at 12:05 p.m. amid mounting concerns over public safety, saying he was afraid that people might be trampled or fall over a railing into the rotunda of the Capitol.
In a separate document, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said McGaffigan didn’t seek input from lawmakers in the decision.
“The Capitol was closed by the MSP out of a legitimate concern for the safety of those inside the Capitol, and not to willfully or intentionally violate the (Open Meetings Act) or to further some sort of subterfuge to cover up what was going on inside,” Schuette said in a statement.
Shortly after the Capitol doors were closed, a coalition of labor unions sought an injunction to reopen the building. They received one at 3:37 p.m. but the Capitol doors weren’t reopened until 4:38 p.m, the Lansing State Journal reported.
Eight people from the Detroit area were arrested and charged with felony resisting and obstructing after police said they tried to push past two troopers guarding the Senate door on Dec. 6.
Labor unions, Democrats and others have sued to block the right-to-work law, arguing that the Open Meetings Act was violated.
In general, right-to-work laws prohibit requiring unions from collecting fees from non-union employees, which opponents say drains unions of money and weakens their ability to bargain for good wages and benefits. Supporters insist it will boost the economy and job creation. Police and firefighters are exempt in the legislation.
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