News & Politics

UPDATED: Armed Protesters Flood Michigan Capitol as Whitmer Attempts to Override State Legislature

A protester carries his rifle at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, April 30, 2020. Hoisting American flags and handmade signs, protesters returned to the state Capitol to denounce Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-home order and business restrictions due to COVID-19 while lawmakers met to consider extending her emergency declaration hours before it expires. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Update below.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing as the legislature considered a measure to extend Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state of emergency declaration. The House of Representatives voted down an extension of the order, but Whitmer claimed she has broad authority to continue the lockdown regardless. This response only adds to the evidence she is abusing her authority amid the coronavirus crisis.

Protesters waved American flags and open-carried firearms as some changed, “Let us in!” and “This is the people’s house, you cannot lock us out.”

Video of the protest spilling over into the capitol building went viral on social media. Protesters crowded into the hallway and up the staircase as state police and the sergeant-at-arms blocked the entrance to the House floor. Rod Meloni, Local 4 business editor, caught the footage.

Michigan United for Liberty organized the protest, apparently without calling for social distancing.

“On Tuesday, April 7th both chambers voted AGAINST extending Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s State of Emergency ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ executive orders for an additional 70 days! Instead, a 23-day extention [sic] was approved. Matching social distancing guidelines set by President Trump,” the event page explains. “On Thursday, April 30th there will be a reassessment of the state’s condition in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. These executive orders are direct violations of our constitutional rights and are infringing upon our basic freedoms! Michigan United for Liberty is calling to you, to rise up and fight for your freedoms!”

Michigan United for Liberty added, “This is not a vehicle protest, we will be on foot on the capitol lawn.”

According to the website, the event was co-hosted by the Libertarian Party of Michigan and the Michigan Conservative Union.

While the event had a page on Facebook, Facebook appears to have removed it.

 

Earlier this month, Facebook adopted a new policy on coronavirus protest events, saying the company will work with local governments and ban events that defy government guidance on social distancing.

“Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook,” a spokesperson for the social media company told PJ Media. “For this same reason, events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook.”

While the protest arguably should have followed social distancing guidelines, the outrage against Whitmer is well-justified.

Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich.), who recently declared his candidacy for the Libertarian Party nomination for president, condemned Whitmer’s excesses, particularly her attempt to override the House’s will. “[Whitmer] should not proceed without the support of the Michigan Legislature. A state of emergency can be abused and must be properly limited. The governor should respect the legislative process and the legitimate concerns of the representatives of the people,” he tweeted.

Rather than extending Whitmer’s order, the House voted to allow litigation against her.

Meanwhile, liberals condemned the protest as an act of terrorism.

Gun control activist Shannon Watts, founder of Mom’s Demand Action, tweeted, “Armed extremists stormed the Michigan Capitol to oppose [Whitmer]’s stay-at-home orders. They demanded to be let intk the statehouse, ignored social distancing requirements, and openly carried military-style firearms.” She added the hashtag “#MichiganTerrorists.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) went straight for the race angle. “Black people get executed by police for just existing, while white people dressed like militia members carrying assault weapons are allowed to threaten State Legislators and staff,” she tweeted. “Our gun laws are so broken.”

Yet, as Kash Jackson pointed out, “not a single shot was fired.”

The Second Amendment protects Americans’ right to keep and bear arms, as entrepreneur Mike Coudrey pointed out. “The more liberal politicians stray away from the constitution, & enforce draconian policies, the more people will rebel against them,” he added.

While I would prefer such protests followed social distancing guidelines and did not spill into the actual capitol building, it is encouraging to see Americans speaking out against Whitmer’s excesses. Among other things, Michigan’s governor singled out gardening supplies for a specific ban. In the middle of a lockdown, when Michiganders were stuck at home, she targeted one of the few hobbies that fit well with social distancing.

The coronavirus crisis has exposed tyrannical local governments, as mayors and governors singled out churches for special restrictions — even banning singing in livestream services! Those who abuse this crisis should be held accountable.

Update April 30, 2020, 11:10 p.m.:

Rather than honoring the legislature’s will, Whitmer signed three executive orders to extend the state of emergency to May 28 and declare a state of disaster.

“COVID-19 is an enemy that has taken the lives of more Michiganders than we lost during the Vietnam War,” Whitmer said in a statement. “While some members of the legislature might believe this crisis is over, common sense and all of the scientific data tells us we’re not out of the woods yet. By refusing to extend the emergency and disaster declaration, Republican lawmakers are putting their heads in the sand and putting more lives and livelihoods at risk. I’m not going to let that happen.”

To be clear, the Republicans did not claim the emergency is over, they merely opposed extending the state of emergency for as long as Whitmer wanted. They also wanted to start Michigan on the path to reopening the state, though far short of a full reopening.

Whitmer insisted that her actions were necessary to help health care workers and first responders.

“Today I signed new emergency and disaster declarations using independent sources of statutory authority to make sure our health care workers and first responders have the tools they need to save lives and protect Michiganders,” she argued. “We’re all in this together. Defeating COVID-19 is an all hands on deck moment for our state, and I remain hopeful that Republicans in the legislature will stop the partisan games and start working with me to re-engage our economy safely and responsibly.”

Whitmer’s office pointed out that while the pace of coronavirus spread has started to slow down, there have been 41,379 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and 3,789 deaths from the disease.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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