Standoff: Whitmer extends lockdown by executive order after armed protest; lawmakers plan court fight


LANSING — A few hundred demonstrators gathered under light rain outside the Capitol Thursday, urging lawmakers not to extend Michigan’s state of emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic.

They carried signs that read “Impeach Whitmer,” “You’re Killing Small Businesses,” and “Liberty or Death.” Many also wore hats or carried other paraphernalia touting Republican President Donald Trump and his 2020 re-election campaign.

Some wore face masks but many did not. Many also did not observe social distancing guidelines that call for six-foot separations between people.

A large number of vehicles blocked most of Allegan Avenue, which runs by the side of the Capitol, and Lansing police officers were directing traffic at the corner of Allegan and Capitol avenues.

There were also a few counter-protesters. One man drove a large truck by the Capitol, shouting: “Go home, rednecks — go home!” into a loudspeaker.

Overall, the rally was considerably smaller than an April 15 event that drew thousands to the Capitol to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, which is currently scheduled to run through May 15.

Legislative approval of Whitmer’s state of emergency expires at the end of the day Thursday. The Republican-controlled Legislature is opposed to her request for a 28-day extension, though it has not ruled out a shorter extension.

But Whitmer maintains — and legal experts agree — that the state of emergency will remain in effect whether the Legislature votes to extend it or not. The Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945 allows the governor to declare a state of emergency, and unlike the Emergency Management Act of 1976, it contains no provision for legislative approval.

Whitmer orders Michigan theaters, bars to remain closed until May 28

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered theaters, restaurants, bars, casinos, gyms and other places of accommodation to remain shuttered until May 28 amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

They remain limited to carry-out and delivery orders only.

The executive order issued Thursday extends one set to expire and came as the governor also extended a state of emergency without approval from the Republican-controlled Legislature. The state of emergency was set to expire Thursday night. – Detroit Free Press

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The state of emergency should not be confused with the stay-at-home order, which shut down businesses not deemed essential and requires people to stay home except for essential purposes. A state of emergency must exist for a stay-at-home order to be in force, but Whitmer has said she expects the state of emergency to continue after the stay-at-home order expires.

Both the House and Senate were in session Thursday but leaders had not announced any plans for action as of Thursday morning.

The rain began to fall harder late Thursday morning, sending many demonstrators scurrying for cover. Many went inside the Capitol, where they gathered in the lobby outside the House chamber and chanted: “Let us in.”

The public is not allowed on the chamber floor. There are public galleries located on the floor above the chamber.

Photos and video posted on social media showed some of the demonstrators gathered outside the House chamber, and others in the public gallery, were carrying long guns on shoulder slings.

“Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us,” Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, posted on Twitter, along with a photo. “Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today.”

Many other demonstrators opened umbrellas and remained on the Capitol lawn.

Dubbed the “American Patriot Rally,” Thursday’s demonstration brought together members of conservative groups, militias, proponents of open carry of firearms, people protesting abortion rights, and anti-vaccination protesters, plus many Michiganders who said they were not associated with any group but believe the stay-at-home order goes too far.

“I’m basically just for common sense,’ said Angela Lowry, 24, of Waterford, who was wearing a cloth mask and carrying a sign that read, “Liberty or Death.”

Lowry, an insurance specialist, said she was deemed an essential worker and has remained employed, but does not like the fact she has been unable to visit relatives, for example.

“I feel strongly about the Constitution,” Lowry said. “It doesn’t matter what is going on — we always have our liberties.”

Lowry said she is not associated with any group, did not vote for Trump in 2016, and does not expect she will vote for him this year, either. “I’m liking Justin Amash,” she said in reference to the west Michigan congressman who left the Republican Party and is exploring a presidential run.

John Moehlman of St. Clair, an insulation contractor, said he has lost work as a result of the stay-at-home order and Whitmer’s Wednesday announcement construction can resume May 7 will not rectify his problems with permits and other issues.

“This is flat-out tyranny,” said Moehlman, who was not wearing a mask. “They’re robbing our freedom right from under our eyes.”

Moehlman said he will vote for Trump in 2020 and generally approves of the president’s handling of the pandemic.

“He’s going to allow these governors to hang themselves” by issuing overly restrictive stay-at-home orders, he said. “I think that was a smart move.”

Tom Scillian, 59, of Utica, a member of the Michigan Liberty Militia, was guarding the steps that led to the podium in front of the Capitol and said he had been designated by organizers to provide security. He carried what he said was a loaded AR-15 rifle.

“Let everybody go to work,” said Scillian, who cuts lawn for Huron-Clinton Metroparks and said he was called back to his job last week.

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