Republican Ryan Berman gives background to photos that prompted the accusations.
Michigan State Representative Ryan Berman, who is Jewish, has rebuked backlash and a recent call from the Oakland County Democratic Party (OCDP) to “denounce his ties to militias”, following the arrest of 13 men accused of plotting to “storm” the state Capitol and kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The OCDP provided two separate photos of Berman pictured with armed individuals, one dated September 2019 and one on April 30 of this year when protesters demonstrated against the COVID-19 lockdown at Michigan’s Capitol.
OCDP said Berman was “front-and-center with armed militia members confronting Michigan State Police officers near the entrance to the Michigan House during a protest on April 30.”
But Berman tells the JN that neither photo has been interpreted accurately, calling the OCDP release a “smear.”
The April 30 Capitol building photo, Berman said, shows him walking through the crowd to get to the house floor as the legislature was in session.
“The people in the crowd were the ones there yelling at us, chanting to ‘let us in’ – meaning to let them in our session/chamber,” Berman wrote in an email. “Why would I be there yelling and rallying alongside those people when I’m an elected representative who is already allowed to go into the chamber and vote and voice my opinion!? I’m already allowed inside the chamber, why would I be supporting storming the chamber? I wasn’t and I didn’t.
“This is really ridiculous that I even have to explain why I was at my own workplace!”
Berman said he went out of the chamber at one point to try to de-escalate and calm the protesters down, letting them know as a duly elected representative of the people, he was there to listen to their concern.
“I didn’t want their protest to escalate and harm others, but they ended up shouting and screaming at me, getting belligerent, and around that time more MSP troopers had to come,” Berman said. “I was not a part of the rally or associated with those protesters, nor any militia!”
As far as the photo from 2019 posing with armed individuals, Berman identified the other figures in the photo as ‘an attorney in the district and his friends’, but did not provide any further information about their identities. In his original Instagram post they are only identified by Berman as “my constituents”.
“He stopped by my office while they were in Lansing to participate in a Second Amendment March at the Capitol,” Berman said. “This is a totally different event, vibe, and participants. I haven’t taken the picture down because those are NOT militia members (nor am I part of a militia). However I support the people’s ability to arm and protect themselves as per the Michigan Constitution.”
In their initial statement, dated Oct. 9, OCDP chair Vaughn Dederian classified these photos as evidence of Berman’s “close ties to militia groups in Michigan.”
In a press release on October 10, Berman condemned the suspects who planned to abduct and harm Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but the release had no mention or response to the OCDP press release from the day prior.
The JN also reached out to the OCDP and the Republican Jewish Coalition for comment on the matter, but has not heard back at time of publication.
Berman, a Republican representing Michigan’s 39th District, is up for re-election in November and is facing Democrat Julia Pulver.