News Story

Whitmer Warns Protestors They Risk Lockdown Extension

Do politics play a role in governor’s response to lockdown scofflaws?

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made remarks recently that could be interpreted as a threat to extend her stay-at-home order if people show up at the state Capitol on Thursday to protest her COVID-19 related executive orders.

“I do think the fact of the matter is these protesters in a perverse way make it likelier we’re going to have to stay in a stay-at-home posture,” she said in a May 13 interview on the ABC program “The View.” She said, “The whole point of them presumably is that they don’t want to do that.”

The Detroit Free Press headline on a story about her appearance on the TV show was: “Gov. Whitmer: Protesters ‘make it likelier’ Michigan will continue stay home order.”

The newspaper also said that “Whitmer said she will continue to let science guide her views on how best to protect Michiganders.”

In her televised interview, Whitmer said, “We can’t make decisions based on politics. We can’t make decisions based on feeling. We have to listen to the science and the data and the epidemiology.”

After the first lockdown protest on April 15 in Lansing, Whitmer said her stay-at-home executive order may have to be extended.

“The sad irony is that they protested the stay home stay safe order and they might have created the need to lengthen it,” Whitmer said at that time, according to WJBK.

Whitmer’s stance and tone in responding to protests against her policies contrasts with her seeming lack of response to some other social-distancing violations by large groups that were reported in the media.

The Detroit News reported on April 8 that Detroit police responded to nearly 2,000 reports over a three-week period of people congregating at basketball games, parties and barbecues in Detroit.

WDIV reported that Detroit police wrote 272 tickets and gave 768 warnings to people in Detroit for violating social distancing orders from May 1 to May 3.

Those violations had no apparent political motive.

But Whitmer does not appear to have said she would extend the stay-at-home order if residents of Detroit continued to ignore social distance orders. The governor did say in early May that she would consider ordering more controls on state parks after large crowds reportedly gathered at Belle Isle in Detroit, according to the Detroit Free Press.

In one instance, Whitmer has taken a jovial approach to the city. For example, a Detroit rapper published a tribute song to her.

A May 1 Detroit Free Press story carried the headline, “Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earns her ‘Buffs’ — and the respect of Detroiters as ‘Big Gretch.’”

Rather than issue an ominous warning about social distancing during cookouts, the governor indicated she would be attending one after the lockdown is lifted in the city.

“This is too much,” Whitmer tweeted May 3. “Love the nickname. Love the song. See ya at the cookout, @GmacCash. Until then, Big Gretch say stay home and stay safe.”

There have been 9,973 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city of Detroit as of May 13, accounting for 21% of all cases in Michigan.

Whitmer’s office didn’t respond to an email asking for the science behind the belief that protesters are spreading COVID-19 within their communities.

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.