Members of churches and faith-based groups along with hundreds of Michiganders gathered at the Capitol on Thursday afternoon last week for a Freedom Rally in support of First Amendment rights and to protest the closing of churches across the state under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders.
Co-sponsored by Stand Up Michigan and the Michigan Pastor's Alliance, the rally took place on the day several individuals were charged with domestic terrorism involving a plot to kidnap Whitmer. A speaker at the event gave examples of primarily Democratic leaders issuing regulations on churches across the country, describing such precautions as an “utter assault on the church of Jesus Christ by the political left.”
“We want to move forward in liberty here in this country," Grand Rapids resident Kevin Skinner said. "We want to trust God with our lives, and that’s why I’m here. I’m a Christian. I believe that the Lord wants us to live our lives free of fear. He wants us to live a courageous life."
Participant Kim Stevens attended the event as a supporter of the Restore Freedom Initiative Petition, an initiative that proposes to amend the Michigan constitution. The initiative aims to “Clarify the legal standard required in order for the government to deprive a person of life, liberty or property.” The petition aims to place an amendment to the Michigan constitution on the 2022 ballot.
“The event is to stand up for the first amendment, the freedom for the churches to assemble because we’ve been denied that right,” Stevens said.
Participants in the rally also addressed Whitmer’s treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic and the urge of some to move forward. Many participants were also seen with support flags for President Donald Trump for the upcoming elections.
“They’ve gathered all the signatures to stop that 1945 law that pins us down, so that’s why we’re here to support Michigan being free,” Dave Cokonougher said.
Cokonougher made reference to the decision by Michigan’s Supreme Court to declare Whitmer’s use of the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Government Act unconstitutional.
“I’m really not up on what the law is, other than that it was used, and we were told that it was taken out of context even to be used," Cokonougher said. "And it pinned us down so that we had to have social distancing, we had to have masks and we just don’t believe that’s proper.”
Cokonougher said he does not have a problem with Whitmer, and that the recent kidnapping plot was wrong.
“That’s why we have petitions, and that’s why we have processes to go through to change the law, other than killing each other,” he said.
The Rev. Walter Slaughter traveled from west Michigan to show support at the rally and expressed his displeasure at Whitmer's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a president that has made promises and kept his promises and more in four years than any other president ever,” Slaughter said. “We’re also here for a deep concern for our state because we have a governor ... who wants to lead the state into socialism, and into communism, and strip our freedoms away by ... shutting churches down, which is unconstitutional."
High school student Katelyn Stevens said that she attended the event to show support to her ideologies.
“I have learned throughout my entire life that Christianity is no longer a religion," she said. "It becomes a lifestyle. I’m supporting my people. I’m supporting my religion, my political party."
Another high school freshman, Kayla Bratt, was with Katelyn at the event.
“We want to see different people’s opinions," Bratt said. "Maybe they don’t agree with what we’re doing here, but they’re still here and that matters to every one of us."
While the majority of the participants were at the rally to show support for the First Amendment rights and support Trump, some came in support of the governor.
“I heard the news about the kidnapping plot on Gretchen Whitmer," McKenzie Dickens said. "I felt that that was totally lawless and unacceptable, so I felt that I needed to come up here and show my support."
Dickens brought a sign representing the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It’s the only thing I had in my car that would be a sign of support for her,” he said.
Rally participants were not socially distanced.
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