“The president’s dangerous comments should be gravely concerning to all Americans … This is a moment that calls for empathy, humanity, and unity,” Gov. Whitmer said.
MICHIGAN — As President Donald Trump threatens martial law and calls for governors to “dominate” protesters mourning the death of George Floyd, political leaders in Michigan have taken a different approach.
Demonstrations across the nation have risen demanding justice for Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck as he lay on the ground for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s death is the latest in a systemic pattern of police brutality targeting people of color.
While Trump has threatened harsh actions against protesters, Michigan leaders like Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist are sending the message that they hear the pain and frustration of demonstrators.
That matters to Michiganders.
In the latest issue of Lake Effect, Progress Michigan and Public Policy Polling found that nearly three in five of Michiganders think police brutality is a serious issue facing the Black community.
“The polling is clear: Black lives matter to the people of Michigan,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan.
How Whitmer and Gilchrist Compare to Trump on Protesters
On Sunday, Whitmer and Gilchrist released a video on expressing solidarity and asking for peace.
“I have been a person who has been on the other side of that police activity, I’ve been a person who’s organized these sorts of demonstrations,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist told Equality Michigan during one of their Live at Lunch virtual roundtables.
“We need to make sure we are doing so in a way that is both impactful and not violent. And also, that we work to organize against those who are looking to usurp the intention and purpose of these demonstrations to sow their own discord and their own destruction. That’s not what this is about.”
Gilchrist is the first Black man to serve in the office of Lt. Governor.
And Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Monday characterized Trump’s stance as disturbing.
“Instead of offering support or leadership to bring down the temperature of protests, the President told governors to put it down, or we’d be overridden.” Whitmer said.
Trump, meanwhile, has threatened to deploy United States armed forces against protesters nationwide. He made this threat after using police and National Guard troops to aggressively force back peaceful protesters Monday.
“The president’s dangerous comments should be gravely concerning to all Americans, because they send a clear signal that this administration is determined to sow the seeds of hatred and division, which I fear will only lead to more violence and destruction,” Whitmer said in a statement. “We must reject this way of thinking. This is a moment that calls for empathy, humanity, and unity.”
‘It Is Exhausting’
Floyd isn’t an outlier in America’s struggle with policing communities of color. Data from Mapping Police Violence shows that Blacks are 2.5 times more likely to die from interactions with police officers than whites in America. And, CNBC’s data shows, 99% of the cases where police interactions led to the citizen’s fatality produced no criminal charges.
When considering the fact that police killed an average of three Americans per day last year, that means over a thousand Americans died at the hands of a police officer who faced no criminal charges in 2019. An alarming portion of whom were like Floyd — unarmed Black men.
“Here is where it gets tricky and uncomfortable,” said Lavora Barnes, chairwoman of Michigan’s Democratic Party. “Donald Trump is a racist, and if being a racist is not a dealbreaker for you, you are the reason black people are being murdered for being Black.”
Michigan’s Republican Party chairwoman, Laura Cox, also said police must be held accountable for Floyd’s death and African Americans too often are treated unfairly by law enforcement. She did not provide specific suggestions as to how to resolve those issues, however.
Detroit’s City Council President Pro Tempore Mary Sheffield organized a city cleanup to help heal some of the physical wounds inflicted by the weekend’s pain.
“I think if you take all the frustration and the anger and channel it into something positive and constructive … it can create some major change in the country,” Sheffield told the Michigan Chronicle.
State Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) summed up her frustration on Twitter.
Anthony made national headlines in April when she was escorted to the Capitol by armed volunteers when she was fearful of armed protesters on the State Capitol’s lawn.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.