Republicans are calling Gov. Whitmer an “authoritarian” and waving Confederate flags in attempts to loosen the state’s restrictions preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
LANSING, MICHIGAN — As Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order expanded and extended to combat the rising tide of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, conservatives have gotten angry.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson) accused Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of “DESTROYING OUR HEALTH BY KILLING OUR LIVELIHOODS” on Facebook and called for the reopening of things like golf courses and marinas. Like Republicans nationwide, Shirkey is calling for people to return to work despite the pandemic.
Wednesday, conservative Michiganders took to the streets in Lansing to protest Whitmer’s order. While it was believed that the protestors would be in their cars the whole time, a surprising number of protestors were not, nor were they seeming to practice social distancing. MLive’s Lauren Gibbons shared pictures of crowds standing close together outside the capitol building in Lansing, and WWMT aired video of protestors taking to the streets.
Gov. Whitmer was asked Monday about the planned protest and expressed support of the right of Michiganders to express their anger, and had highlighted the decision to remain in cars as a way to protest while practicing social distancing. As The Gander reported, she was empathetic toward the frustrations of her opposition and said she had “thick skin.”
“It’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay, if it makes you feel better to direct it at me, it’s okay to do that too, I’ve got thick skin,” Whitmer said. “I just ask that those that are protesting these orders do so in a safe manner so you don’t get sick and so you don’t subject our first responders to risk either.”
While discussing the protest Monday, Whitmer mistakenly attributed the funding of the event to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, which has fallen into the continuing battle between the Governor and President Donald Trump, who Tuesday accused Whitmer of being “authoritarian”.
Some protestors also flew Confederate flags in Lansing, emblazoned with images of assault rifles. Michigan Advance’s Susan Demas tweeted pictures of that flag, asking how that message relates to the coronavirus pandemic.
Whitmer is being sued in federal court over her expanded and extended “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order by four people, including a couple claiming an inability to travel from their Thumb-area property to their primary residence under the order is a violation of their Constitutional rights. Further inflaming people was the reporting of a Detroit-area broadcaster using footage of a 2019 executive order signing as background for a story about the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order leading to the false conclusion that Whitmer was not practicing what she preached.
The continuation of the coronavirus executive orders reflects both a still-rising case and death count in Michigan as well as concerns that without proper mitigation efforts ending the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order would cause a second wave of infections and deaths across the state. Whitmer pledged Michigan’s return to normalcy, but insisted on seeing a sustained reduction in infection, enhanced testing and tracing abilities, sufficient healthcare capacity for future infections and workplace best practices before that could happen.
“This is a tough enough situation,” said Whitmer. “Let’s not make it harder on one another.”