POLITICS
12/11/2012 06:23 pm ET | Updated Dec 12, 2012

Michigan Labor Protests Take Ugly Turn (VIDEOS)

The largely peaceful protests against right-to-work legislation that brought thousands of pro-union workers to Lansing, Mich., turned ugly at times on Tuesday, with protestors being pepper-sprayed by police and a conservative provocateur saying he was roughed up by labor activists.

A video uploaded by the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union shows a throng of protestors outside the capitol being doused with what appears to be pepper spray. "Oh my God, oh my God," a witness says in the footage. "They're pepper spraying the crowd!"

Among those hit with pepper spray was former Rep. Mark Schauer (D-Mich.), who told the Battle Creek Enquirer that police had asked the protestors to move away from the capitol's north wing. Schauer said he got sprayed while negotiating a route for the protestors to take.

“I immediately began to retreat and began to cover my eyes and my mouth,” Schauer told the newspaper. “It was not good.”

In another video heavily re-tweeted, the tent belonging to Americans for Prosperity, an interest group backing the right-to-work law, came down amidst shouts by pro-union protestors. Breitbart writer Lee Stranahan uploaded a video with the caption "a violent mob destroys the Americans For Prosperity tent on the lawn of the state capitol during protest against right to work legislation."

Annie Patnaude, deputy state director in Michigan for Americans for Prosperity, told HuffPost that she saw at least three men in black ski masks enter the tent and cut the straps.

"It was almost as if we didn't have a right to be there," said Patnaude, adding that nobody was injured.

But the progressive group Progress Michigan uploaded a video in which members interview Tom Duckworth, who claims that he saw a Tea Party activist loosen the straps and let the tent collapse, essentially staging the destruction.

Patnaude disputed Duckworth's version of events. "That’s the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," she said.

In the most provocative incident, Steven Crowder, who identifies himself as a Fox News contributor, comedian, actor and writer, was punched in the face during a confrontation with protestors. Crowder uploaded an edited video of the incident and called it a "union assault." Due to the editing, it's impossible to tell what immediately preceded the punches being thrown. Crowder tweeted that more footage would appear on Sean Hannity's show.

Crowder couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Michigan now appears likely to become the 24th state to have a right-to-work law. Such laws forbid agreements between companies and labor unions that require all workers to pay union dues for representing them. Unions say the Michigan proposal will cripple them financially and reduce membership, since it will let workers opt out of supporting the union, even though they benefit from the union's collective bargaining.

Both chambers of Michigan's GOP-controlled statehouse approved the right-to-work measures on Tuesday, and Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is expected to sign them as early as Tuesday.

Did you witness any of the incidents in Lansing on Tuesday? Tell us about it.

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