Cynthia Johnson, Lee Chatfield and Jocelyn Benson have all received threats or intimidation in the past week.
Cynthia Johnson, Lee Chatfield and Jocelyn Benson have all received threats or intimidation in the past week.

Threats, racism and an armed protest at an elected official’s home are the latest in the rising potential of political violence in Michigan.

DETROIT, Mich.—A mother and son spending a December Saturday evening hanging festive lights doesn’t ordinarily get an audience, let alone a heavily armed one, but a rising tide of political tension following the certification of President Donald Trump’s defeat and his corresponding rhetoric has changed things. 

Michigan lawmakers are receiving violent threats, racist voicemails, and that mother was confronted with armed men while she decorated this past weekend. This all comes two months after 14 men were arrested for plots of terrorism against Michigan leaders. 

The latest political targets  of violent threats  included Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. BBC reports that while Benson and her son decorated their home, dozens of protesters swarmed the family, protesting the 2020 election and echoing the frequently debunked claims of election fraud. 

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She was about to watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas with her family, Benson said in a statement. 

“Through threats of violence, intimidation and bullying, the armed people outside my home and their political allies seek to undermine and silence the will and voices of every voter in this state,” her statement continues. “But their efforts won’t carry the day. Because our democracy is strong. The will of the people is clear. And I will stand up in my job every day for all voters, even the votes of the protesters who banded together outside my home.”

One of the participants posted video of the protest online. 

The protest at Benson’s Detroit home was not the only incident targeting a state leader in the past week. 

Democratic State Rep. Cynthia Johnson, also from Detroit, serves as the ranking member of the state’s House Oversight Committee. In that role, she was critical of the presentation of Trump lawyer Rudolph Guillani whose arguments trying to substantiate the, again thoroughly discredited, allegations of voter fraud were so farcical they were lampooned by Saturday Night Live. 

In the days since Guilani’s presentation last week, she received calls threatening her life. 

“Honey, how dare you bully witnesses on the stand. Your name and phone number are out there now,” the person on the phone said. “You should be swinging from a f—ing rope, you Democrat.”

Another voicemail, recorded and posted to Facebook by Johnson, used strong racist language.

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The representative told supporters online she would not be deterred. 

“I just want all these people to know I’m not changing my number. And with technology you know I share!” Johnson wrote on Facebook.

As  the Detroit Free Press reported, it has not been just Democrats who have received  threats of violence. Speaker of the Michigan House Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) reported also receiving threats over the weekend. Chatfield, along with state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clark Lake). was summoned to the White House in late November. After speaking with the president, both men refused to overturn the results of Michigan’s election.

“Violent threats against anyone are a stain on our society and unacceptable, especially when that person is just trying to do their job and help people. I and my family have received numerous threats, along with members on both sides of the aisle,” Chatfield told the Free Press. “Whenever a threat is made against a representative and we are made aware, we contact our House sergeants and the Michigan State Police so they can look into its credibility, stay alert and prepare for any possible situation.”

This follows events earlier this year, where in April armed protesters stormed the Capitol Building and demanded to be able to observe the legislature with live firearms in tow. Two of the men at that protest were involved in the terrorist plot foiled in October aiming to kidnap and murder Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and forcibly take control of Michigan’s government. That was followed by protesters in Detroit on the day after the election storming the TCF Center, where ballots were being counted, with the expressed purpose of intimidating election workers into stopping the counting of every valid vote.

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Each of these incidents, like the armed protest at Benson’s home, was perpetrated by supporters of defeated President Donald Trump. 

Gov. Whitmer Monday decried the voicemails left to Johnson, the visit to Benson’s home, and threats to Chatfield, saying that such behavior was unacceptable. Trump, on the other hand, has quietly continued his legal challenges to certified election results nationwide. 

“It is time to put the election behind us,” Whitmer said this week. “Hate and violence have no place in Michigan.”