Police prepare for large protests today in Lansing

Dec 11, 2012

Dozens of State Police have gathered in a hallway in the Capitol’s lower level, cordoned off by blue curtains. This is their base of operations in the building this week as hundreds – maybe thousands - of protesters are expected to fill the upper levels.

In one closet, police have stashed helmets and other riot gear.

Capitol Facilities Director Steve Benkovsky hopes the demonstrations will stay peaceful.

"Everybody has a right to come in here and voice their opinion. And we'll deal with it the best we can and let them voice their opinion," said Benkovsky.

State and local police plan to close a number of streets around the state Capitol.

They will also limit the number of people allowed in the building.

Organizers opposing the legislation say they hope thousands will show up to speak out against the legislation quickly making its way through the Legislature.

Benkovsky says incidents during protests last week illustrated the need for caution.

"We had a lady that was 70 years old that passed out up there, and they had a hard time getting through the crowd. So they sort of said, 'look, you got to keep a little better control on how much access we have and free to get, at least, if something like that happens,'" said Benkovsky.

Some Democrats say the moves are meant to keep protesters away.

Police locked down the Capitol last week, citing similar concerns.

Right-to-work opponents have filed a legal action over the move, saying it violated the state’s Open Meetings Act.