News Story

Whitmer Praises Or Condemns Social Distancing Violators Depending On Who And Why

It looks political

Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson was lionized by state and national news stories on May 30 for participating in a George Floyd demonstration.

In a move that generated national publicity, Swanson took off his riot gear and walked with demonstrators.

A Detroit Free Press article ran two photos of Swanson not wearing a mask and not social distancing. In one photo, Swanson posed with another demonstrator for a selfie, with neither wearing a mask. In another photo, a maskless Swanson is seen giving a high-five to a demonstrator whose mask is pulled down, exposing her face. In both instances, Swanson was violating social distance mandates under Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Violations of Whitmer's executive orders are a misdemeanor. Also, fist-bumping is not allowed in Whitmer’s plan to restart public schools, due to the threat they pose in transmitting the illness.

Whitmer posted a video of Swanson at the May 30 demonstrations in a tweet that said, “Yesterday, Michigan Sheriff Chris Swanson set an example for law enforcement across the nation. I’m grateful for his leadership, and hope to see many more follow his lead.”

The video showed Swanson walking around with no mask and touching demonstrators, most of whom were not practicing social distancing and some of whom were not wearing masks.

This is very different from the governor’s reaction to April protests against her stay-at-home and lockdown orders. In one instance, Whitmer threatened to extend a stay-at-home order because demonstrators were seen in photos and videos not practicing social distancing or wearing masks.

“It’s sad because this is a small, relatively small group of people in a state of almost 10 million, where the vast majority are doing the right thing,” Whitmer said May 13 on CNN. “The right to dissent is something I have a great deal of respect for, but we have to do it in a way that doesn’t compromise other people’s public safety, and these protests thus far have not done it that way and I think it’s very concerning.”

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.