LANSING, Mich. – Another demonstration protesting Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order is scheduled to take place Thursday in Lansing.
Whitmer recently extended the state’s stay-at-home order until May 28 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Thursday’s protest is organized by Michigan United for Liberty. The group tweeted Wednesday that the purpose of the next rally is to defend Michigan residents’ “freedom and prosperity” and to protest Whitmer’s executive orders that they deem “grossly unconstitutional and destructive.”
In preparation for the protest Michigan State Police (MSP) have shared social media posts requesting demonstrators to wear face coverings and practice social distancing measures.
The Michigan State Police is expecting demonstrators at the Capitol tomorrow. Lieutenants Oleksyk and Robinson are here today to provide public information about what you can expect from us and what we expect from anyone in attendance. pic.twitter.com/7BlTV0x4wL— Michigan State Police (@MichStatePolice) May 13, 2020
MSP Lieutenant Oleksyk says there will be “a lot of police presence” and police vehicles to help maintain a “safe environment” amid Thursday’s protest.
“While our desire is to interfere as little as possible in demonstrations, we will not allow unlawful, threatening or intimidating behavior,” said MSP Colonel Joe Gasper.
Gov. Whitmer also spoke of the planned protest in a press conference Monday, saying, “If you chose to demonstrate I ask that you wear a mask and stay six feet apart from others.”
The latest demonstration follows two previous protests at the State Capitol Building: One on April 15 called “Operation Gridlock” that attracted thousands of people, and another on April 30 called the “American Patriot Rally” that attracted hundreds -- with many openly carrying assault rifles into the building.
“We are in unprecedented times which have called for significant measures to protect the health and safety of Michigan residents. I vehemently support the First Amendment right to protest government actions at the Capitol or elsewhere around the state; however any such activity must be done in a manner that is safe and lawful,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel of Thursday’s planned protest. “The presence of heavily armed protestors at the Capitol unnecessarily creates a powder keg dynamic that is dangerous to protestors, law enforcement and public servants reporting to work at the Capitol. My office will work in coordination with local authorities and the Michigan State Police to uphold our commitment to public safety.”
The American Patriot Rally left legislators concerned for their safety -- one legislator even put on a bulletproof vest while on the Senate floor. The armed protest spawned conversations of potentially banning guns from entering the Capitol building.
Lawmakers met to discuss the issue of guns in the Capitol Building on Tuesday but did not come to a conclusion before ending the call. The virtual meeting was “Zoom bombed” by hackers.
“I know that people are frustrated and I am very disappointed the Capitol Commission didn’t take action today to keep legislators safe,” Whitmer said. “We’ve heard a lot of stories of legislators who are fearful of going to work after scenes we’ve seen play out here.”
Officials are becoming concerned with the violent rhetoric surrounding the stay-at-home order -- especially after Gov. Whitmer has received multiple death threats. Officials say the threats are being investigated.
Whitmer is standing by her actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state -- which still has the third highest numbers of COVID-19 deaths in the country.
The state has seen a recent decrease in the rate of growth of COVID-19 cases and deaths, but Whitmer warns that relaxing social distancing measures prematurely could lead to a “second wave”.
“I want to be very clear: COVID-19 is still present in Michigan. It is present in 79 out of the 83 counties," Whitmer said in a press conference last week. "And that’s why it’s terribly important that we not let our guard down now -- that we consider this a very real threat, because it is.”
The governor recently announced a six-phase plan for reopening Michigan’s economy, and the state is currently in phase three.