LANSING, Mich. — As the protests against right-to-work legislation in Michigan rage on, accusations of violence and dirty tricks are flaring on both sides.
Conservative media have been circulating a video which appears to shows union members tearing down a tent owned by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which is linked to the Koch Brothers. Video of the tent’s collapse was first posted on YouTube by Lee Stranahan of Breitbart.com, who claimed that a “violent mob” of union members—some of them armed with knives—had torn down the tent while people were still inside. The video was picked up by The Daily Caller, The Washington Times,and The National Review.
“I am saddened by union protestors’ complete disregard for safety and freedom of speech, tearing down an AFP tent and stomping on peaceful AFP demonstrators trapped under the tent,” AFP Michigan State Director Scott Hagerstrom said in a statement.
But one eyewitness tells MSNBC.com he thinks there may be more to the story. Thomas Duckworth, a Michigan resident and lifelong union member, said he’d been at the AFP tent earlier in the day, when he noticed a man in an NRA hat. Later, he said, he saw the man deliberately loosening the ropes holding the tent up. Duckworth acknowledged that labor supporters had cheered the tent’s collapse, but suggested that AFP had deliberately helped initiate the it, in order to depict their adversaries as an unruly mob.
The progressive communications group Progress Michigan also conducted an interview with Duckworth. You can find the video on their YouTube page.
Update, 12/12 4:40 pm: Breitbart.com has posted additional video which appears to show a protester in an orange cap undoing one of the ropes holding up the tent. (About 0:20 in).