News Story

Whitmer Admits Social Distancing Violation; Thousands Face $1,000 Fines

Democrats censured elected lockdown protestor for same offense in April, mayor said then Republican 'put residents at risk of death'

On June 4, Gretchen Whitmer posted on the Michigan Governor’s Facebook page a photo of herself violating state law.

The photo captured Gov. Whitmer walking in a crowd at a George Floyd demonstration, not practicing the social distancing that was imposed on residents by her own executive order requiring six-feet of separation from others when in public.

Thousands of other Michigan residents have been ticketed for such violations, which can bring fines of up to $1,000.

There have been no reports that the governor was ticketed for the violation, which she admitted to at a press conference.

The event raises questions about how social distancing violations were handled during demonstrations protesting Whitmer’s coronavirus epidemic lockdown orders in April. The reactions from Whitmer and some other Democratic officials were very different then.

In Royal Oak, City Commissioner Kim Gibbs attended an anti-lockdown protest in Lansing and didn’t wear a face mask or practice social distancing.

Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier, a Democrat, asked Gibbs, a Republican to resign.

In a scathing email, Fournier told Gibbs that practicing social distancing was a matter of life and death, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“From what I see you broke the law and willfully violated social distancing measures putting our families and neighbors at risk,” Fournier wrote in an email, according to the Detroit Free Press. “Your actions will prolong quarantine and add to everyone’s economic hardships. Your comments to the press are beyond ignorant and show zero empathy for those on the front lines fighting this virus and those who have succumb to it. None of your spin-doctors will save you from your irresponsible actions and words. I will not be responding to anymore of your nonsense. This is about life and death. ... Your potentially unlawful and reckless actions have put more of our residents at risk of death."

The Royal Oak City Commission censured Gibbs by a 5-2 vote and a resolution asked that she immediately resign, according to the Detroit Free Press.

On April 2, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon said social distancing is “essential to saving lives.”

Gordon added, “A civil penalty and potential licensing actions send a strong message to Michiganders that social distancing is essential to saving lives.”

Whitmer acknowledged violating her own executive order.

“We couldn't always observe six feet apart but we were wearing masks the whole time," Whitmer said during a June 5 press conference. "We never shook hands, didn't high five or hug the way that we usually greet on and other but I thought that it was an important moment to show my support and show a unified leadership out of the executive office of the governor."

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.