A group that visited Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s home on Saturday night is one of many self-described “grassroots” groups working to overturn President Donald Trump’s election loss. But this one lists a local Republican Party office as its own headquarters.
Benson had been about to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas with her young child when a crowd of approximately 20 people marched up to her home with bullhorns and Trump flags. The group was there to falsely accuse Benson of rigging the election against Trump. Benson, who serves as Michigan’s chief elections officer, claimed in a statement that some of the people who visited her home that night were armed.
No arrests were made at the Saturday protest, but it was not a spontaneous outpouring of right-wing grievances. Genevieve Peters, an attendee who streamed the event on Facebook, posted that the group was affiliated with “Stop The Steal MI.” That group claims to share its “HQ” with the Macomb County Republican Party, which shared Peters’ video of the demonstration outside Benson’s home on its official Facebook page.
The protest was the latest escalation targeting elections officials in swing states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden. In Georgia, officials report receiving threats of violence, despite the state’s Republican leadership reexamining the election results and repeatedly certifying Biden’s win. Even prior to the presidential election, multiple prominent Michigan Democrats faced threats, including an alleged kidnapping plot directed at the state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer.
The ongoing saga in Michigan suggests that even when official Republicans show signs of, however belatedly, coming to terms with Biden’s victory, the activists they’ve unleashed may not be ready to hang it up.
“Through blatantly false press releases, purely political legislative hearings, bogus legal claims and so called ‘affidavits’ that fail to allege any clear or cogent evidence of wrongdoing, 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,” Benson wrote in her statement on the incident.
Peters, who livestreamed the protest, is no stranger to headlines. In October, she interrupted a speech by Sen. Bernie Sanders at a Biden campaign event, and then sat on the floor attempting to record. In May, one of her streams went viral when she was kicked out of a Trader Joe’s for refusing to wear a mask. The following week, she announced that she was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, but apparently recovered. Last week, she took a picture with Rudy Giuliani, who now has COVID-19 himself.
Peters also posted a group picture with other protesters on Saturday, some of whom were holding printed “Stop the Steal” signs. Peters said the protesters were with the group “Stop The Steal MI,” an organization that launched its website on November 10, a few days after Trump’s loss became clear.
Neither the Macomb County GOP, Peters, nor her group (which lists Peters’ phone number as its own) returned requests for comment on Monday. On its website, Stop The Steal MI solicits donations, and asks visitors to contact the Michigan GOP with evidence of voter fraud.
State-level Republicans claimed they’d been unaware of Stop The Steal MI until Monday. “The part you sent over, we’ve been putting that info out for weeks, so it wouldn’t surprise me that they shared it,” Tony Zammit, a Michigan GOP spokesperson, told The Daily Beast of the group encouraging people to contact them.
He did not endorse the protest outside Benson’s home. “We understand that people are upset, however we would encourage folks to express their frustrations in a peaceful manner,” he said.
Other state Republicans, like Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, have also condemned the incident. Chatfield visited the White House last month amid fears that state legislative leaders would seek to overturn the will of the voters and award Michigan electors to Trump. Such a scheme never came to fruition.
But Stop The Steal MI claims closer ties to the Macomb County GOP. Stop The Steal lists the Macomb GOP’s Clinton Township, Michigan, offices as its own “HQ.” A Facebook button on the Stop The Steal website links to the Macomb County GOP’s Facebook instead of the group’s own page.
The Macomb County GOP did not return multiple requests for comment on whether Stop The Steal was affiliated with the local party, or just inexplicably claiming to share their address and Facebook page. The Macomb County GOP did, however, share Peters’ video of the protest outside Benson’s home, apparently with approval.
Stop The Steal MI has previously encroached upon property of less-than-thrilled organizations. In November, the group advertised a “Support our President” rally that apparently ran afoul of a TGI Friday’s in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
“Please DO NOT Park in TGI Friday’s Restaurant Parking Lot,” the group’s event poster read. “TGI Friday’s have told us our cars would be towed away.”