Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has a message for the legion of protesters that swarmed Lansing Wednesday to protest her stay-at-home orders: Sure you can protest, but you might make someone you love sick and if they die of coronavirus they'll die alone.
“I know that people are angry, and that’s OK, and if you want to take it out and send it my way, makes you feel better, that’s fine,” Whitmer said of the “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine” protest on Wednesday. “I support your right to free speech and I respect your opinions. I just urge you: Don’t put yourself at risk, and don’t put others at risk either.”
The Democratic governor said she asked healthcare professionals what they would want her to say to the protesters who circled the Capitol building in their cars and blocked streets to urge the state to reopen non-essential businesses and restart the economy.
“The first answer was, ‘Make sure they understand how serious this is.’ Another said, ‘Tell them that they can get COVID-19 and have it for days before it even shows up in a symptom.’ That they might survive, but someone else in their house might die from it, and tell them that the people that do lose their battle with COVID-19, die alone,” Whitmer said.
The rally, organized by groups including the Michigan Conservative Coalition, was mostly in vehicles but some protested on foot, and even on horseback. Dozens carried assault rifles.
What they weren’t carrying was much in the way of protective gear. One, Whitmer said, was even handing out candy “with bare hands.”
While many states have issued stay-at-home orders, Michigan’s is among the more stringent, spurring Wednesday’s protest. For example, people can’t travel between residences or gather outside homes, and the number of customers allowed in any essential business at any given time has been severely curtailed: four customers for every 1,000 square feet.
Any business not considered “life-essential” has been ordered to close or face fines, which has led to complaints from greenhouses and landscapers who say they’re being unnecessarily shut out of the economy. Boating is also banned.
There’s a reason for the severity: Michigan has seen more than 28,000 cases and 1,921 deaths, particularly around Detroit, one of the nation’s hotspots.
And ironically, Whitmer said, her controversial orders may have to be extended if the protest stokes more cases.
“They don’t like being in this stay-at-home order and they may have just created the need to lengthen it, which is something we’re trying to avoid at all costs,” Whitmer said.
Cover: People take part in a protest for "Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine" at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on April 15, 2020. (Photo JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)