The tale of the Michigan AFP Tent just got a lot more interesting.
A spokesperson for conservative group Americans For Prosperity told TPM on Thursday the tent’s collapse this week during protests outside the state capitol may have been instigated not by union protesters — some of whom were “helping us” after the tent collapse, she said — but rather by “radical anarchists” wearing Guy Fawkes masks and coming from the Occupy movement.
Spokesperson Annie Patnaude also alleged some of the protesters threatened to blow up propane tanks inside the tent, potentially creating a deadly conflagration. Meanwhile union supporters continued to say the tent was felled by AFP members themselves, a charge Patnaude called “upsetting.”
At a press conference on Thursday afternoon in Lansing, Mich., AFP called on the mayor and police to open an investigation into the tent collapse and the events surrounding it.
A spokesman for the Lansing Police Department referred questions to the Michigan State Police, who are in charge of policing the state capital grounds. A spokesman for the state police, Inspector Gene Adamczyk, told TPM on Thursday afternoon that no official complaints had been filed regarding the tent collapse. If any are filed, he said, the agency will investigate.
The collapse has become a rallying cry for conservatives, who claim it is evidence of “union thuggery” during the Tuesday protests, which saw more than 10,000 pro-labor protesters swarm the capitol complex. AFP’s tent, which had been set up for days, came down during the protests, reportedly trapping some AFP supporters and equipment underneath it.
The AFL-CIO condemned the tent incident and claimed its members assisted evacuating AFP supporters from the structure. Patnaude confirmed that was true for at least “some” union supporters.
She said she also has video footage showing the masked instigators, which AFP plans to show at this afternoon’s presser.
“A lot of people have been telling me, and I saw one gentleman inside the tent, who was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask,” Patnaude said. “I don’t know if this was a union person or not. I think there’s a good possibility it was an Occupier or a radical anarchist.”
“Certainly some of these union protesters are paid protesters who border the line on anarchy,” she continued. “But you know, there were union protesters there who I overheard saying ‘this has gone too far’ and who were actually helping us. So for their sake we need to have a full investigation.”
The tent incident was far more dangerous than it originally appeared, according to Patnaude. She claimed she heard protesters talking about blowing up propane tanks fueling heaters inside the tent. Patnaude said security on hand closed off the tank valves out of concern.
“I’m sure there will come a point where hopefully arrests can be made,” Patnaude said. “Or interrogation, whatever the authorities believe is appropriate. We can’t just let this die down and go away, because this could affect any group peacefully demonstrating at the capital.”
Some progressives have claimed the AFP tent was brought down from the inside, a claim Patnaude denied.
“[They] continue to advance this theory that somehow this was an inside job by our organization. That is ludicrous and ridiculous,” she said. “I cannot emphasize enough that people very seriously could have been injured.”
Patnaude said AFP has not talked to the police yet about their allegations, but they intend to have those discussions Thursday. The group is demanding that Lansing officials, police and union leaders find those responsible for the tent collapse and “bring them to justice,” she said.