I just spoke with David Fladeboe of Americans for Prosperity, who was working security outside the tent cut down by pro-union protesters outside the Michigan statehouse today. (Fladeboe can be seen in this video previously posted by Jonah — he’s the bearded, burly redhead trying to keep the tent upright.)
Fladeboe said the tent, for which AFP-Michigan had received a permit a week earlier, held between 30 and 40 people before protesters began stabbing at its straps with knives. He said that at first, protesters were targeting random straps to avoid being caught — then, finally, they focused on one corner of the tent in an effort to pull it down. Fladeboe said that even once several of the straps were cut, the local police on the scene did little to help the volunteers re-secure them.
Eventually, protesters were able to snap one of the tent stakes in half and pull it from beneath the tent, causing it to collapse. Fladeboe said that despite reports that the tent had been cleared of people before it went down, there were about a dozen people still trapped inside after it had fully collapsed. “You could see people inside of it trying to get up, and you could see the tent moving,” he said — a problem exacerbated by the fact that protesters began “stomping” on top of the collapsed canvas while volunteers tried to help those trapped inside.
Before it had collapsed, the tent was held up by two 20-foot poles, which had to have fallen for it to collapse; volunteers were worried that those poles could have landed on someone stuck inside the tent. There also was hot coffee and hot chocolate served inside the tent that could have burned people if tipped over.
Fladeboe said that once the tent was clear of people, the protesters began pushing and shoving them — it was only then that the police got involved. The police formed a circle around the melee, then began pulling AFP-Michigan volunteers out of harm’s way. “We all regrouped, and luckily everyone was fine,” Fladeboe said, although he conceded a lot of the workers were “shaken up” by the experience, given that many of the volunteers were women and elderly people.
Fladeboe, who was present in Madison for the Wisconsin union protests, said the Michigan protest was “smaller, but a lot more intense” than the Wisconsin protests. “The anger and the vitriol of these people was shocking,” he said, adding that, in the past two years, he hadn’t seen anything like this in Madison.
Video is now breaking of Fox News contributor Steven Crowder being assaulted by the downed tent by a union demonstrator: