As thousands descended on the Michigan's capitol to protest controversial right-to-work legislation passed by the House Tuesday, one former lawmaker felt the effects of clashes with police.
Mark Schauer, a Democrat who previously represented the state in the U.S. House, told Lansing news service MIRS that he was pepper sprayed while protesting. He was one of more than 12,000 people who came to the state capitol to protest the legislation that detractors call an attack on unions.
"Unfortunately while people were exercising their first amendment rights, I among them got pepper sprayed by police officers," Schauer said in a MIRS video. "We were not endangering the building in any way but we wanted to make sure, since the Republicans have not provided for any public hearings or opportunities for people to speak on these bills, that they can hear how the people really feel. Unfortunately, some of us are paying a price for it."
Michigan State Police confirmed the use of pepper spray on at least one protester at the Capitol Building. According to the Detroit Free Press, an individual attempted to pull an officer into the crowd and another officer pepper sprayed the man, who was not arrested.
The protest later moved to the Romney building, also in Lansing, where Gov. Rick Snyder has an office. At least two protesters had been arrested as of midday after trying to get into the building, and officers clear crowds of protesters sitting-in in front of of the building. Police in riot gear and mounted officers continuously kept an eye on the crowds. Watch another video of protesters having a confrontation with police on Bloomberg News.
Earlier in the day, protesters tore down a tent put up by Americans For Prosperity Michigan, a conservative group that supports right-to-work laws. According to MLive, Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said they were contacted because several people, including two in wheelchairs, were trapped under the tent.
"So we had to send troopers out, and naturally, the crowd was not too receptive," Shaw said.
Protesting reached a fevered heat Tuesday when the controversial right-to-work legislation passed the House, less than a week it was introduced. Snyder, who had long opposed right to work,indicated he would sign the bills into law, which could happen as early as Wednesday.
If signed, the laws would make it optional for employees at Michigan companies to pay union dues. While Snyder has touted the legislation as giving workers more "freedom in the workplace," detractors have said the legislation is anti-union and limits their abilities to bargain.
Michigan would be the 24th right-to-work state.