LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Hundred of people angry over Michigan’s coronavirus stay-at-home order protested again outside the state Capitol on Thursday, braving heavy rain to call for business owners to reopen in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The demonstration was smaller than previous larger rallies, at least early on. It was led by Michigan United for Liberty, a conservative activist group that has sued Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and organized or participated in several protests since early April.
“Don’t do what she says,” said Erica Pettinaro, a co-founder of the group. “She doesn’t care about the Constitution of the United States of America.”
People held signs declaring “Every worker is essential,” “Make Michigan work again” and “Reopen schools.”
Though state police described the last demonstration as peaceful overall, lawmakers from both parties criticized some protesters for intimidating and threatening tactics. Some openly carried assault rifles into the Capitol, including the state Senate gallery, sparking calls by Democrats to ban guns from the building.
The Republican-led Legislature was not in session Thursday — the Senate had planned to be but changed course — and the Capitol was closed to the public. A court will hear arguments Friday in GOP lawmakers’ lawsuit challenging the governor’s ability to extend an emergency declaration, the underpinning of her restrictions, without their blessing.
The state police director and Michigan’s attorney general said laws would be enforced at the rally, including if protesters “brandish” their guns or ignore police directives. Under the governor’s stay-at-home order, which is effective at least until May 28, people don’t have to wear masks outside. But they are required to stay 6 feet (nearly 2 meters) from those who don’t live in their household. Many flouted the distancing requirement at the previous rallies and didn’t wear face coverings inside while yelling at security guards.
“I don’t particularly want to see people congregating, period. We know that contributes to spread,” Whitmer said Wednesday. “But if people are going to come down and demonstrate, do it in a responsible way. That’s what we ask.”
She pointed to modeling showing a median estimate that her order had prevented at least 3,480 additional deaths. More than 4,700 people have died in Michigan from complications related to COVID-19, which is the fourth-most of any state and the sixth-most on a per-capita basis.
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