Thousands protest Michigan governor’s stay-at-home order

Michigan Protestors, April 15, 2020

People protesting against the Michigan stay-at-home order due to COVID-19 fear at the Michigan State Capitol

(Related Story: Leading Republicans say the coronavirus shutdown cannot go on. Car-honking activists swarmed a statehouse Wednesday to protest stay-home restrictions. Capitol Hill staff are quietly drafting bills to undo the just-passed rescue aid and push Americans back to work.)

By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER and ED WHITE Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Hundreds of flag-waving, honking protesters drove past the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday to show their displeasure with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the coronavirus outbreak.

(You can read Michigan’s stay-at-home order here, or on Gov. Whitmer’s website)

As snow fell, others got out of their vehicles and raised signs, one of which read, “Gov. Whitmer We Are Not Prisoners.” Another said, “Michigander Against Gretchens Abuses.”

Hours later, Whitmer shot back, telling reporters that the rally put health at risk.

The “Operation Gridlock” protest was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition. The ripples were widely felt: Traffic was barely moving for miles in some areas of Lansing.

“This arbitrary blanket spread of shutting down businesses, about putting all of these workers out of business, is just a disaster. It’s an economic disaster for Michigan,” coalition member Meshawn Maddock said. “And people are sick and tired of it.”

Whitmer, a Democrat, extended a stay-home order through April 30 and has shut down schools and businesses deemed non-essential. The governor acknowledged the pain but said the restrictions were necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which causes a respiratory illness that has killed more than 1,900 Michigan residents and overwhelmed hospitals in the Detroit area.

Whitmer said she was “really disappointed” to see protesters close together without masks.

“I saw someone handing out candy to little kids barehanded,” the governor told reporters. “People are flying the Confederate flag, and untold numbers who gassed up on the way here or grabbed a bite on the way home. We know that this rally endangered people. This kind of activity will put more people at risk and, sadly, it could prolong the amount of time we have to be in this posture.”

During the rally, Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield, who has urged Whitmer to amend her orders, waved an American flag from a window at his Capitol office.

Four sheriffs in the northwestern Lower Peninsula called Whitmer’s orders a “vague framework of emergency laws” that are frustrating citizens. Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich said people don’t understand why they can’t take a child fishing in a motorboat but they can use a kayak.

“We’re trying to keep the peace with people. … The economy is coming apart in northern Michigan. People are upset,” Borkovich told The Associated Press. “People are frantic to get back to work. They have been very edgy.”

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One part some demonstrators are upset about is a rule for stores of more than 50,000 square feet. Michigan’s stay-at-home order says they must close areas of the store that are dedicated to the following classes of goods:

  • Carpet or flooring
  • Furniture
  • Garden centers and plant nurseries
  • paint

It orders those same stores to, by April 13, “refrain from the advertising or promotion of goods that are not groceries, medical supplies, or items that are necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and basic operation of residences.”

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