Yesterday, Michiganders from across the state surrounded the capital to protest Gov. Whitmer’s restrictive Stay Home, Stay Safe orders.
As coronavirus curves begin to flatten in many states across the country, some people are beginning to grow restless on lockdown, and even more are beginning to question the data being presented and the so-called draconian edicts being put in place by a handful of governors, including Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D). In fact, for some Michigan residents, the Stay Home, Stay Safe measures put in place under Whitmer go too far. As a result, many frustrated Michiganders marched on Lansing yesterday.
The protest was dubbed Operation Gridlock because, instead of traditional protests where protesters march on foot, the Michiganders protested by clogging the streets around the capital in their vehicles. As the day went on, hundreds of trucks, SUVs, and cars surrounded the capital. Many demonstrators could be seen blasting their horns, holding homemade signs deriding the governor’s orders, and hoisting American flags. All in all, the message was clear. The participants wanted Whitmer to rethink her executive orders, which have been called “unduly onerous and tyrannical,” and make a plan for reopening the state’s economy.
The protest was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition. According to the group, though Whitmer’s lockdown measures were implemented to help curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, her latest round of executive orders announced last week go too far. For example, under the new round of orders, residents are prohibited from visiting family or friends with exceptions for providing care. Additionally, public and private gatherings, regardless of size or family ties, are now banned. Big box stores are now required to limit the number of customers in the store at one time and certain products that Whitmer has deemed unessential have been cordoned off in stores like Walmart, Costco, and Meijers.
When commenting on the matter, Rosanne Ponkowski, the president of the Michigan Conservative Coalition, said:
“Let’s start with the fact that some counties have no or very few COVID cases and yet are totally shut down. When did a one-size solution solve everyone’s local issues? Governor Whitmer will put you out of business before allowing mere citizens to be responsible for their own behavior. That is madness.”
Meshawn Maddock, a member of the Michigan Conservative Coalition and organizer of the protest, chimed in on Whitmer’s restrictions and said:
“Quarantine is when you restrict the movement of sick people. Tyranny is when you restrict the movement of healthy people…Every person has learned a harsh lesson about social distancing. We don’t need a nanny state to tell people how to be careful.”
Before the protest, organizers advised demonstrators to stay in their vehicles for the duration of the protest so Whitmer and her supporters couldn’t say they ignored the social distancing order. Unfortunately, as with many protests, there was a handful of people who ignored those instructions. As the protest progressed, groups of people began to gather outside their vehicles near the capital building. Another unfortunate thing that began circulating were claims that the traffic caused by the protest was blocking hospital entrances near Sparrow Hospital downtown. However, hospital employees began reaching out to protest organizers to inform them the hospital entrances were not being blocked. One Sparrow nurse even allegedly messaged Maddock with the following message:
“Hi Meshawn. Put something out there that Sparrow Hospital entrances are NOT being blocked and that emergency vehicles can freely move throughout. Some people on fb (Facebook) are saying that the entrances are being blocked and emergency vehicles can’t get through. That’s not the case. Let it be known on social media.”
Even the Lansing Fire Department reported there were no major issues getting to Sparrow Hospital or tending to the scene of an emergency during the protest. Via social media, Assistant Fire Chief Michael Tobin noted “ambulances driving to and from a scene without lights on were delayed about two minutes, but ambulances with lights and sirens on had no delays.” He said, “People were doing their best to get out of the way.” He added that he said a picture made its way around social media that showed an ambulance stuck in traffic on Saginaw Street, one of the busier streets in downtown Lansing. However, when he reached out to the crew on that particular ambulance, he learned it “didn’t have its sirens on and experienced a short delay cutting through, but it wasn’t a major issue.”
Wednesday’s Michigan protest wasn’t the first instance of civil disobedience in the country, though. The longer the widespread stay-at-home orders remain in effect to counter the coronavirus, people from Wyoming to North Carolina are beginning to push back and are “concerned with the economic and financial impact from shutdowns – echoing President Trump’s complaint that “the cure could be worse than the virus.”
The Stay Home, Stay Safe order in Michigan is set to expire April 30. Without a legislative extension, Whitmer’s emergency powers are also due to expire at the end of the month. Some GOP legislators have already hinted they are unhappy with how Whitmer has handled the situation and are upset “because she did not align Michigan with a federal agency’s revised list of critical infrastructure, which would have allowed more people to return to work.” Michigan House Speaker said “the state should transition to asking which activities are safe or unsafe rather than essential vs. nonessential.”
Unfortunately, these aggressive lockdown strategies implemented across the country have already caused nearly 17 million Americans to lose their jobs in three short weeks, and that number is expected to rise.