Business Owner: 'They cut our tents up into little pieces and passed them out as souvenirs'
LANSING — Union protesters caused at least $35,000 in damage when they trampled and sliced up two tents on the Michigan Capitol lawn during protests against right-to-work legislation this week.
The company that owned those tents could also now face higher insurance rates because of the vandalism.
The destruction was done at a union rally against right-to-work legislation, which passed in Michigan on Tuesday. Americans For Prosperity had rented the tent where most of the violence and vandalism occurred. Supporters of worker freedom including conservative union members, small business owners and others visited the tents throughout the day.
"They cut our tents up into little pieces and passed them out as souvenirs,” said Kimberly Grass, of A Complete Rental, located in Lansing, just a few city blocks south of the Capitol building. "We have footage and pictures of them doing it. We felt we needed [them] so we could show the insurance company."
Pictures of the destroyed tent are nearby; the video of the union protesters cutting up the tent take by a media team from Job Creators Solutions is below.
"I was completely shocked," Grass said. "We got a phone call saying 'please come, they're tearing down your tents.' That day was frustrating. We were seeing pictures of them ripping down our tents and (videos of them) trampling them on YouTube, but we couldn't get to them."
Videos and pictures of union activists pulling down the tents have circulated widely on the Internet. It was part of the violence, vandalism and destruction that occurred Dec. 11 on the Capitol lawn as union protesters — many of them bused in from other states — rallied against right-to-work legislation.
Union members had been chanting "knock it down" before they rushed the tent and then tore it down. But that wasn't enough. They then took out box cutters and knives and cut the tent into pieces, broke tables that had been inside and destroyed light fixtures that were hanging in the tent. Some union members also stole sodas, chips and other items from Clint Tarver, the caterer who had been hired to work the event inside the tent.
Tarver's equipment also was destroyed.
However, when the union protesters lashed out, crushing and cutting up the tents, it was the local rental company that got stepped on.
Grass said the cost of the destroyed tents came to more than $35,000.
"In addition to the tents there were the heaters inside of them and the coffee urns," Grass said. "This isn't a small insurance claim or a medium claim, it's a large claim. I'm sure our insurance premium is going to go up now."
Dave Gill, legislative liaison for the American Rental Association of Michigan, said the protesters should have realized that attacking the tents was misguided.
“I understand that the protesters had a grudge," Gill said. "But when they were tearing down the tents and cutting them up, they were taking their grudge out on a small local employer. It was like what they did to the hot dog guy (Tarver). They just wanted to show force. They really didn't care who they were hurting. It apparently didn't matter to them."
Gill, who owns Rentals Unlimited in Traverse City, said he wondered what sort of news coverage the destruction would have received if the political dynamics had been reversed.
"If these had been conservative protesters, I think the news media would be making a lot bigger deal about it," he said.
Video by Kathy Hoekstra/Job Creators Solutions