Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has become the central focus of a growing protest movement in her state amid what many residents feel are unconstitutional, overly restrictive executive orders mandating the closure of businesses, placing restrictions on how companies operate, and imposing other strict “social distancing” policies. As Whitmer engages in a showdown with the state’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives, President Trump has offered the governor — a frequent critic of the president — some advice.
“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” Trump tweeted Friday morning. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 1, 2020
Whitmer has been taking increasing heat from both constituents and Republicans in the state. The situation got particularly tense on Thursday amid a large demonstration, called the “American Patriot Rally,” organized by activist group Michigan United for Liberty. The demonstration, held at Michigan’s Capitol building in Lansing, included hundreds of protesters, some of them armed, many of whom entered the building to demand the governor “free” the state from her “draconian” orders.
“Hundreds of people protested outside the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing on Thursday, with some pushing inside while the Legislature was debating an extension of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” NBC News reported Thursday. “Protesters held signs, waved American flags and even carried firearms, while some chanted ‘Let us in!’ and ‘This is the people’s house, you cannot lock us out.’ Others tried to get onto the House floor but were blocked by state police and sergeants-at-arms, according to NBC affiliate WDIV of Detroit.”
Photos and video of the event posted on social media show some of the protesters, including some of those legally carrying weapons, making their presence known inside the Capitol building:
Protest moves inside Michigan Capitol. Crowd attempts to get onto Hoise floor. Lots of Michigan State Police and House sergeants at arms blocking door. pic.twitter.com/4FNQpimP4W
— Rod Meloni (@RodMeloni) April 30, 2020
Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today. #mileg pic.twitter.com/voOZpPYWOs
— Senator Dayna Polehanki (@SenPolehanki) April 30, 2020
As NBC noted, a state police spokesman confirmed to the network that citizens could indeed carry firearms inside the Capitol building “as long as it’s done with lawful intent and the weapon is visible.”
While the protesters were descending on the Capitol, Michigan Republicans were rebuking Whitmer, refusing to extend her emergency authority and instead moving to sue her for “unauthorized use of power.” Whitmer, in turn, issued three executive orders extending her emergency authority until May 28 and her “stay-at-home” policy until March 15, citing “independent sources of statutory authority.”
Whitmer and Michigan Republicans traded barbs, both sides blaming the other for the failure to reach a compromise. While Whitmer accused Republicans of “putting their heads in the sand and putting more lives and livelihoods at risk,” Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-MI) slammed the governor for throwing out a “lazy political talking point,” pointing to Republicans’ willingness to work with Whitmer on some social distancing measures, excluding a statewide stay-at-home order. Whitmer, said Chatfield, is the one who refused to work with the other side.
“The idea we want to put an abrupt end to the state of emergency and go back to normal immediately is a lazy political talking point,” said Chatfield, as reported by ABC-12. “We all agree Michigan must continue taking strong steps to fight the spread of this disease. But we can both protect the public health and protect the individual people who make up our great state.”
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