press release


News from Progress Michigan

February 17, 2021

Contact: Sam Inglot, 616-916-0574,

In May Speech, Shirkey Laid Pre-Cursor to D.C. Insurrection

“I came here today with three weapons,” Senate Majority Leader told armed anti-Whitmer crowd in speech opening

MICHIGAN –– Progress Michigan is calling attention to a speech that Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey gave at the American Patriot Rally in Grand Rapids last May, which advocated for “testing” and “training” against government. The speech occurred the same month that Shirkey made remarks online regarding Gov. Gretchen Whitmer being “drunk on the addiction of unfettered power” as violent rhetoric and threats were directed towards her and other elected officials—threats that were on full display at this American Patriot Rally.  

For months, right-wing lawmakers and Trump allies spread misinformation about the election and hurled incendiary rhetoric toward public health orders designed to curb death and illness from COVID-19. The language used by those on the right whipped Trump supporters into a frenzy, culminating in a failed right-wing insurrection in Washington, D.C. on January 6th. While Shirkey’s speech took place in May, the rhetoric spouted was a clear pre-cursor to what was to come in D.C.  

In opening his speech, Shirkey took a far-right and dominionist tone, proclaiming he brought “three weapons,” referring to his sidearm, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bible. Other disturbing comments from his speech include calling upon the crowd to participate in “training” their children, family, and neighbors and to “teach them that we can never, ever, ever give up being diligent about protecting those freedoms.” Shirkey did not clarify what he exactly meant by “training” other than saying, “I don’t need to explain to you what training means.” 

He further told the rallygoers, some of whom were armed and part of right-wing militia organizations, “And that’s when these groups, these citizens and those across not just Michigan but the entire nation, we need to stand up and test assertion of authority of government.” 

Prominent rally attendees included Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, who shared the stage with armed militia groups associated with the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer and later went on to defend them publicly. The American Patriot Council, a far-right group supportive of militias, confederate statues, and Trump, organized the rally. Shirkey gave a nod to Ryan Kelley and Jason Howland, event organizers who were allegedly at the insurrection in D.C, saying he had had conversations with them about militia activity in Lansing.

“Once again, Shirkey has been caught on camera making dangerous and ignorant comments,” said Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott. “Shirkey’s history of providing free advice to militia groups and his recent claims that the January 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection was a ‘hoax’ have undeniably fomented political violence to an unacceptable degree. Despite witnessing a conspiracy to kidnap and kill Gov. Whitmer last year, Shirkey has endlessly provoked the lies that fueled attacks on elected officials and our democracy. The only thing Shirkey is fit to lead is the singing of hymnals, and even that is debatable. We renew our calls for him to resign immediately.”