Watch CBS News

Dozens of armed "stop the steal" protesters threaten Michigan Secretary of State outside her house

Michigan's Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says armed protesters gathered outside her home on Saturday night, "shouting obscenities and chanting into bullhorns in the dark of night." In a statement posted on Twitter, Benson said the protesters were "an extension of the noise and clouded efforts to spread false information about the security and accuracy of our elections that we've all endured in the month since the polls closed on November 3."

Benson said the protesters arrived just after she and her 4-year-old son finished decorating for Christmas and were about to start a holiday movie. She said dozens of armed individuals stood outside of her home making "unambiguous, loud and threatening" demands.

"They targeted me in my role as Michigan's Chief Election Officer. But the threats of those gathered weren't actually aimed at me — or any other elected officials in this state," her statement reads. "They were aimed at the voters."

Benson said while she has advocated for peaceful protests, "there is a line crossed when gatherings are done with the primary purpose of intimidation of public officials who are carrying out the oath of office they solemnly took as elected officials."

She also reiterated what leaders in Michigan as well as many other states have attested about the 2020 presidential election: there is no evidence of wrongdoing and "those unhappy with the results of this election have perpetuated an unprecedented, dangerous, egregious campaign to erode the public's confidence in the results of one of the most secure, accessible and transparent elections in our state's history." 

Last month, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted to certify the state's election results, formalizing President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the state over President Trump by a margin of more than 154,000 votes.

"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, no matter who they voted for," Benson said in her statement. "Their goal is to overturn and upend the results of an election that are clear and unequivocal, and that 5.5 million Michigan citizens participated in."

Benson said the will of the people is clear, Democracy is strong and that she will continue to stand up for all voters. "I will continue to guard every citizen's vote because no matter how one voted or who they voted for, where they live, or what they look like, their vote is the lifeblood of our democracy," she said. 

Still, many protesters echoed the false and unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud promoted by the Trump campaign, which filed lawsuits in numerous states attempting to to stop vote counts or challenge the results. Most of the lawsuits have been dismissed, defeated or withdrawn. Last mont, Benson told CBSN the suit filed in Michigan does not have merit and was confident in the process of counting all votes.

Despite Mr. Trump's repeated claims that the election was "rigged," and his refusal to concede his loss to President-elect Biden, Attorney General William Barr said last week the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The 

Videos from outside of Benson's home on Saturday night show protesters shouting, "Stop the steal."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy issued a joint statement condemning the crowd for "taunting and intimidating her family and neighbors."

"In videos uploaded to social media, at least one individual could be heard shouting 'you're murderers' within earshot of her child's bedroom. This mob-like behavior is an affront to basic morality and decency," they said. 

"In a civil society, there are many ways to peaceably assemble and demonstrate. ... Terrorizing children and families at their own homes is not activism. This disturbing behavior masquerading as protest should be called out for what it is and roundly condemned by citizens and public officials alike." 

Benson was not the only Michigan lawmaker targeted by such protesters. State Rep. Cynthia Johnson shared on Facebook several threatening voicemails she received, including some that said she would be lynched, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican, put out a statement saying he and his family have been targeted too. "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," Chatfield said. "I and my family have received numerous threats, along with members on both sides of the aisle."

Similar threats against election workers, officials and their families in Georgia sparked an impassioned plea last week by one of that state's top election managers, Gabriel Sterling, who is also a Republican. 

He implored President Trump and his supporters to dial back the rhetoric. "Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get hurt. Someone is going to get shot. Someone is going to get killed. And it's not right."

Georgia official calls on Trump to condemn threats against election workers: "Someone's gonna get killed" 10:10

"This has to stop," Sterling said. "This is elections. This is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this. It's too much. Yes, fight for every legal vote. Go through your due process. We encourage you. Use your First Amendment, that's fine. Death threats, physical threats, intimidation, it's not right."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.