DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit NAACP branch announced Tuesday that its members and area attorneys will monitor polls across the city and state on Election Day for instances of voter intimidation or voter suppression.
The group said that if any such efforts are seen, or if any voters feel threatened by gun-carrying individuals “watching” the polls, police and prosecutors will be contacted.
They point to President Donald Trump's encouragement of a far-right extremist group to “stand back and stand by” and his calls for an army of “poll watchers” to keep tabs on polling places as reasons to be vigilant.
Other voting rights advocates around the U.S. have similar concerns heading into next Tuesday’s presidential election that anti-government extremists and other armed civilians may stand outside polling places in urban areas and other communities where people of color cast their ballots.
“We’re not police officers, but we have eyes and we have ears,” said Chui Karega, a lawyer and general counsel for the Detroit branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “We will stand tall and we will be present to assist in the enforcing of the law.”
“We will be virtually at every polling place in this city, in this county, in this state — making sure that if anything happens, anything goes wrong, anybody starts brandishing a weapon we will be there,” he added. “And we will act within the full authority of the law to prosecute these people to stop their actions and to make sure that everyone has the right to vote and their vote be counted.”
The Detroit NAACP has a hotline number where people can call on Election Day. Detroit-area law enforcement has been contacted about the group’s plans, according branch President the Rev. Wendell Anthony.
“They are on the case. They are award of this, too,” Anthony told reporters, referring to the possibility of people carrying guns showing up at polling sites.
“This is not a Second Amendment issue,” Anthony said. “This is a right to vote issue. We want people to have access to the voting booth unmolested, uncontested and unintimidated.”
Anthony also questioned the need for bringing guns and rifles to voting sites.
“Why would you be standing out there with an AR-15 or AK-47? Anthony said. “What’s the purpose of that? Nothing more than intimidation and to try to discourage people from voting.”
The weeks heading into the election have been contentious.
Six men were charged earlier this month in federal court with conspiring to kidnap Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer before the Nov. 3 elections in reaction to what they viewed as her “uncontrolled power” in orders she issued shutting down businesses to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Separately, seven others linked to a paramilitary group have been charged in state court for allegedly seeking to storm the Michigan Capitol and seek a “civil war.”
In April, a number of people carrying semiautomatic weapons and other guns took part in a protest at the Capitol over Whitmer’s orders.