News Story

Whitmer Joins Protest, Appears To Violate Governor's Social Distancing Order

Executive order: 'must adhere to ... social distancing measures'

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appeared to violate her own executive order regarding social distancing when she attended a George Floyd protest in Highland Park on Thursday.

The Detroit News published a photo of Whitmer kneeling with protesters shoulder-to-shoulder, several of whom were not wearing masks.

Whitmer has made past statements that earlier protests endangered other residents in the state and could lead to a second wave of the coronavirus that has killed 5,595 people in Michigan as of June 4.

Whitmer said May 13 on ABC’s The View protests against her policies were undermining the effort to combat COVID-19.

“They are congregating, they are not wearing masks,” Whitmer stated on The View. “They are not staying six feet apart. And then they go back home into communities and the risk the perpetuating the spread of COVID-19 is real. We’ve seen it happen. And that’s why, I respect people’s right to dissent, they need to do it in a way that is responsible and does not put others at risk.”

Whitmer added: “Anyone who is contributing to people not observing best practices and endangering others is undermining all that work … and run the very real risk of a second wave.”

Whitmer said at a May 11 press conference about protesters: “Their freedom of speech is something that I respect, but they have a duty to do it in a way that doesn’t compromise others or threaten others or compromise our first responders. And so if you choose to demonstrate, I ask that you wear a mask. I ask that you stay six feet apart from others.”

Here’s what the text of an executive order Frequently Asked Questions page:

"Q: Does Executive Order 2020-110 prohibit persons from engaging in outdoor activities that are protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution?

A: No. Persons may engage in expressive activities protected by the First Amendment within the State of Michigan, but must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including remaining at least six feet from people from outside the person’s household."

Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown told the Detroit News that Whitmer wasn't in violation of her executive order because it states, "Nothing in this order shall be taken to abridge protections guaranteed by the state or federal constitution."

"That includes the right to peaceful protest," Brown told the Detroit News.


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.