Thousands protest Michigan Governor’s social distance order

LANSING, MICHIGAN (AP) — Thousands of flag-waving, honking protesters drove past the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday to show their displeasure with Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the coronavirus outbreak.

As snow fell, others got out of their vehicles and raised signs, one of which read, “Governor Whitmer We Are Not Prisoners”. Another said, “Michigander Against Gretchens Abuses”.

Hours later, Whitmer shot back, telling reporters that the rally put health at risk.

The ‘Operation Gridlock’ protest was organised by the Michigan Conservative Coalition. The ripples were widely felt: Traffic was barely moving for miles in some areas of Lansing.

“This arbitrary blanket spread of shutting down businesses, about putting all of these workers out of business, is just a disaster. It’s an economic disaster for Michigan,” coalition member Meshawn Maddock said. “And people are sick and tired of it.” Whitmer, a Democrat, extended a stay-home order through April 30 and has shut down schools and businesses deemed non-essential. The Governor acknowledged the pain but said the restrictions were necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which causes a respiratory illness that has killed more than 1,900 Michigan residents and overwhelmed hospitals in the Detroit area.

Whitmer said she was “really disappointed” to see protesters close together without masks.

“I saw someone handing out candy to little kids barehanded,” the governor told reporters. “People are flying the Confederate flag, and untold numbers who gassed up on the way here or grabbed a bite on the way home. We know that this rally endangered people. This kind of activity will put more people at risk and, sadly, it could prolong the amount of time we have to be in this posture.”

Protesters stand on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan. PHOTO: AP