Police warned a group of squabbling President Trump supporters and counter-demonstrators to separate in downtown Detroit on Friday night — with law enforcement eventually closing the roads — and the owner of a giant, traveling shrine to the president was briefly arrested and his vehicle was impounded.
The protest broke up just before 10 p.m., police said, after a tense and often bizarre day that included an evening investigation of a false bomb threat at the convention center.
The day began with the abrupt closing of the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office after threats to “storm the building,” police said. Detroit is the Wayne County seat.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was declared the winner of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes on Wednesday, in a state that’s part of what’s known as the “blue wall” and often a key to winning the presidency along with other Rust Belt states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Michigan had long been Democratic but flipped in 2016 and helped elect Trump.
Detroit police Chief James Craig said the police had intelligence that armed groups would come to the city on Friday.
County treasurer Eric Sabree said in a statement that he closed his office “in the interest of the safety of taxpayers and our staff,” after law enforcement heard about threats to take over the building and demand a ballot recount.
But the protests remained largely a war of words, with pro-Trump demonstrators calling the city and the election results, “corrupt and a fraud,” and yelling “Stop the steal,” although there has been no evidence of vote fraud.
Pro-Biden demonstrators called out, “No more years” and “Black Lives Matter.”
In the end, though, the only person arrested was Rob Cortis, a Livonia, Mich., man and owner of the “Trump Unity Bridge,” a traveling shrine-like float to Trump, decorated with eagles, “Build the Wall” and “Trump Unity” in massive letters along with “Blue Lives Matter” signs.
Cortis had an outstanding warrant against him for disturbing the peace in Canton Township. His float — a GMC Yukon XL SUV with a trailer — also has an invalid license plate, police said.
Traveling in the giant altar with a large “Trump 2020” flag, Cortis claims to have campaigned across the country from D.C. to Los Angeles, according to his float’s Facebook page.
Cortis was warned by police to stay out Detroit on Wednesday because his plates were invalid and one said “Keep America Great,” police said.
Local news reports and videos on social media show him screaming, “Help, help” as he was arrested and put into a police vehicle.
Detroit Police Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood said he was “blocking traffic and playing loud music and we had given him a warning.”
His “vehicle was impounded” briefly, police said, but later in the evening, Cortis was released along with his vehicle.
Cortis did not respond immediately to messages left on his phone and on his float’s Facebook page.