In response to the extension of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay home, stay safe order, thousands of cars filled the roads surrounding Michigan’s Capitol Wednesday afternoon.
“Operation Gridlock,” organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition saw protesters filling steps of the Capitol and surrounding streets, waving flags and displaying pro-Trump and anti-Whitmer signs.
The demonstration drew a crowd of an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people, according to Shannon Banner, public affairs manager for Michigan State Police. While they remained peaceful, Banner said via email that Michigan State Police are processing one arrest for an incident occurring between two protestors.
There were no Executive Order violations issued, Banner wrote.
“The majority of demonstrators remained in their vehicles, and most of those who were on foot were practicing social distancing,” Banner wrote.
According to Lansing Police Department Public Information Director Robert Merritt, the department had advanced notice of the rally and had been working with Michigan State Police to put a plan in place to address it.
“Community safety is priority one and both agencies will be working together to obtain that goal. At this point during the rally there has not been any violations/citations issues,” Merritt said via email.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the public Wednesday afternoon. She said she spoke with health care professionals on the front line who emphasized how important it is to encourage others to take this seriously, in light of today’s rally.
“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 who do lose their battle with COVID-19 die alone. Make sure they understand how serious this is,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer said she understands the frustration these protestors feel.
“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,” Whitmer said. “I was really disappointed to see people congregating, not wearing masks. I saw someone handing out candy to little kids bare-handed ... 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 have to be in this posture.”
During the protest CATA chief marketing and public information officer Lolo Robison said CATA services suspended with cars blocking access to the roadway.
“We’re just kind of waiting for everything to dissipate and then we’ll be able to resume services reserved for life-sustaining, life-protecting trips as well as those for essential workers,” Robison said.